Monday, December 21, 2009

No such thing as free

I'm not supposed to be blogging right now, I'm supposed to be sitting in a preview of Sherlock Holmes. I got 2 free passes to get in. But when I arrived at the theatre, I (along with a group of others) were not allowed to go in because the theatre was full. Kudos to the manager at United Artists Galaxy Theatre in Indianapolis for offering me admittance to any other movie, but the schedules and other options weren't what I was there for. So I don't blame the theatre at all.

I won't bore you with details, but suffice it instead to say that the monetary opportunity costs were north of zero for me to get an evening out. Plus, I got the tickets from someone else who would have liked to have them used I'm sure; I feel bad that I didn't use them. So I don't blame her at all.

Am I to blame? I thought about what I could have done to make sure I got in - but it really doesn't matter. The fact is that they gave out too many passes, and if it wasn't me being turned away it would have been someone else.

I blame instead the site that provided the tickets: If they respond to my issue I predict they'll point to the fine print that mentions they overbook events. But I'm not looking to find some legal loophole to inflict a civil suit on them anyway; if I wanted to make a frivolous suit I'm sure I could find a better reason. I just want to be a satisfied customer seeing a movie and escape from holiday-induced stress for 90 minutes.  A business model can't succeed long-term by counting on shafting people, even if it has some hand-waving justification in 8 point font. There's a cost to using even a free ticket, and I paid it, and now I feel ripped off that I didn't get in.

Shame on you gofobo for issuing tickets that you never intend will be honored.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My friends will make fun of sappiness

I first heard about the lovelist project from Kristin at and was quite bemused. The concept is a simple one, intuitive and obvious enough to be easy to grasp and implement and yet I was somewhat off-put. My interpretation: the idea is that you list the things you love - publicly - and then you make changes and commitments to include those loves in your life - and report back on that.

Can I really admit in public that I like to sleep really, decadently late on weekends? Will my boss appreciate seeing my plans to include more epicurian lapses into morning slumber? Will me husband react to my Saturday morning coma with his usual stoicism if he knows that I'm planning to shirk Saturday breakfast duty? I'm not sure yet that I can be so public as that. Yet, there is one somewhat private activity I can share - something I find I really love, and really want to have more time for, so I'm committing to that now.

I'm fortunate to be endowed with a wonderfully gracious and intelligent group of friends who, despite my failings, count me as a friend amongst them. They're a group with whom I laugh, I share my aspirations, I plot. We gripe together, we offer sympathy for life's petty wrongs, we have flashes of insight that make troubles easily resolve. And sometimes, we grieve.

I met them online back in the dark ages of the world wide web, back when meeting someone in person who you'd only ever emailed or gotten to know online was considered risqué, and very unlikely as we were located in every corner of the country, in the lower 48 and Canada and occasionally in Hawaii or Belgrade too, depending on deployments. Nowadays, with all the pairings through and, you'd think that the internet was actually a better place to meet people than is one's own local community. But back then, it wasn't. We took the risk anyway and started meeting up. We even included the one we thought was the token guy pretending to be a girl, and were surprised to find she wasn't pretending.

It has been 10 years since we first met, give or take a few for some of us. I recently travelled to the other side of the continent for business and was fortunate enough to end up in a place where there were 3 others from my group of friends; I made time in my schedule to see them. I loved seeing them, and I love the way it seems like we haven't been apart long at all when we're together. Leaving my family for business travel is a grind, and business travel is never glamorous; but I went because it is part of the job, and part of my career that I like. But seeing my friends - making time for them - I did that for me.

And I've seen this before with others in the group - we extend ourselves, make time when there isn't any, and reach out and stay out to be there for each other. We head out to airports to help visiting friends navigate the foreign lands that are our homes, we send care packages, we head out in the rain in Boston and to piercing parlors in NYC, through the subways of Chicago, the mountains of Colorado, under the Arch in St. Louis, at the Lincoln Memorial in DC or at a church in New Jersey. Through bone scans and driver's permits and weight loss and remarriage and childbirth and tattoos and military service, we're going through it together - daily online, and semi-annually in person.

Each year, we meet up in person - actually make a point to do that, once we realized that without such an effort we might only meet at funerals. And I've been unable to go the past two years, through a variety of factors, but I would have loved to be there. This year - thanks to the lovelist project - I'm doubly committed to being there. Because it is the people I love, the people who love me. Being with them renews me in some way to face all those who aren't such dear friends, and still leaves open the possibility that anyone could be - even someone you only first knew as a funny-sounding user name on the internet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dreamforce aka #df09

Mr Dreamforce
It has been a while since I traveled for business, and I've somewhat lost the knack of it. There's no glamor in business travel, although I did get to improve my Foursquare points ranking. Being in a time zone a half day different from your native place, where they serve breakfast at lunchtime and dinner is at bedtime left my system completely frazzled. I'd intended to end my days with a blog update but was so tuckered out  I couldn't; so here's my updates now for Wednesday's sessions:

The keynote came off like a pep rally for the AV club. Benioff talked at length about cloud computing as a revolution in IS, the disconnect between knowing more about your friends through social media than you might know about your co-workers and direct reports, and then moved on to chatter. There's plenty of better summaries of Benioff's remarks, so read those if you're so inclined. I'll share instead my reaction: chatter, in summary, operates somewhat like a Google Wave for the organization members who participate in Salesforce's app; and thereby they can chat to each other as well as see posted updates regarding documents, apps, and from outside systems. "My apps are talking to me" said Benioff and that is wonderful, truly. I wonder though how we'll separate the garrulous ugly bums of the apps from the sexy pretty ones that you want to hear from. Similarly, if you're pulling in updates from the public internet - for example, based on searching for tweets which use your company's name - how do you keep known spammers and pornographers from shoving their data into your CRM? As an individual, if I get something distasteful I delete it and go on with my life. But as an enterprise, I figure I'm liable if I inflict such trash upon my coworkers and offend their sensibilities. And if not liable, still it is inefficient and not in the spirit of teamwork to let such nastiness pass through to my coworkers. Salesforce will have to get a grasp on this spam/porn issue with their chatter before adoption can be widespread.

I next went to Hands-On: Building Reports to Analyze ROI  - which was a waste of time for me, and the others I spoke to in the session. In 10 minutes I'd gotten the point that reports were obnoxiously simple to build in Salesforce compared to the sometimes esoteric permutations one goes through to put together a crystal report. Similarly, the session Hands-On: Giving the Right People the Right Information was also dry - more of a basic how-to whereas I was expecting more advanced tips and techniques. I left for the expo, and wish I'd spent more time there! I also spent some time reconfiguing my schedule to avoid the hands on sessions during the rest of the conference - I wish they'd been billed as novice sessions from the beginning.

Another session I attended was The Self-Healing Database: Advanced Data Quality for Busy Administrators. This session was of much better quality, with great tips for running automatic batch processes to keep the data sanitary.

At the expo, I checked with 3 Salesforce staff and none knew how to deal with the filtering issue I mentioned. Finally I found a cheerful gent with a Salesforce tag who was able to answer my question; unlike the developers I'd been pestering for an answer, he'd formerly worked as a salesforce admin so he was familiar with the practical issue I was addressing. His recommendation was to import all the trash as cases, then run some processes to automatically close inappropriate cases and suppress them from user views. Still that would require someone to make a list of nasty terms for us to use as the basis of a filter; but I suppose that's what interns are for.

I had lunch at the Birds-of-A-Feather luncheon, and despite the goofy name it was a great event for me. I had lunch Wednesday with Colby from Exact Target, and he kept a full table engaged in swapping implementation stories and tips. I felt like that open exchange of ideas toward a directed topic was such a benefit - there's no teacher like experience, and hearing other's experiences offered lessons a plenty.

Wednesday night's gala event featuring the Black Crowes got off to a rocky start. In keeping with conference precedence, they started late. But rocking with the Crowes was a highlight for me, I loved being able to see the guitarist's technique from up close - it definitely had a small-club feel in spite of the thousands of people in attendance. I ended up closing out the venue with a group of half-drunken chess players; I'd never been kicked out of a place for playing raucous chess before, but now I have, so I can cross that off my life list.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Black Crowes at the Moscone Center November 18

I saw the Black Crowes at the Moscone Center in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce at the Dreamforce conference gala. I was really keen on seeing them; often the bands that play at corporate events aren't suited to my musical tastes so it was a treat to be treated to the Crowes.

I was worried however when I first got to the stage; the Crowes seemed to be acting as their own warm up band, and performed lackadaisically at best for the first 3 pieces. They finally hit their stride, though, around song 4 and started really rocking out. Their performances of crowd favorites Jealous Again and She Talks to Angels inspired dancing and sing-backs even among the most staid corporate types. The harmonica/drum duet mid-set was a beaut, and being so close to the guitarists on stage allowed a close following of their techniques and fingering.

Thanks Salesforce for bringing in such a hard-rocking, authentic rock band.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vlad the illustrator


Vladstudio aflyingtree3 1600x1200
I love the wallpapers and images by Vlad at Vladstudio. I even use his tree of books image with his permission on my book blog. Thanks Vlad!

Lately I've been contemplating some new imaging and really favor this floating tree. So, should I start swapping out Vlad's tree of books for this tree of floats

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Elms: Convicted and forgiven in an instant

The Elms rocked the house last night at the Vogue in Indianapolis. I convict them of excellence; but they have such fun in what they do I forgive them too.

I had the chance to talk briefly with Owen Thomas before the show; be wary if you get the chance to do the same because the man is intense. Even running on a sleep deficit he was up for a detailed discussion of the creative process. I got to share my gratitude - the Elms is the first band whose music my kid likes (I was despairing that the kid might never develop musical taste until he found them). Owen spoke of the mental process a performer goes through to be ready to be in the moment on stage and how he struggles to set aside James-Brown style perfectionism to be happy in the moment of a performance. As much as I was swept away with the band's frolicing performance last night, I couldn't help but see how that intensity from Owen was playing out as well. He's balancing there during the performance, between neurosis and joy, pushing his bandmates to step up and play better and stronger, and they push right back. That's serious fun they're having in their rambunctious, melodic act.

The Elms' set started with "The Strut," headed strong over to "Unless God Appears First," and of course included the popular treat "Back in Indiana" from the Elm's discography. The boys from Seymour also picked up the most joyful version I'd ever heard of the hymn "I'll Fly Away." My personal favorite of their collection, "Nothing to Do with Love," finally came up after I'd been anticipating it through the whole set. A version of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" closed it out.

During a pause between songs, the audience began to clap out a rhythm; the Elms drummer Chris Thomas picked up the crowdsourced rhythm, built it into something more, was joined by Thom Daugherty then Nathan Bennett with Owen Thomas providing kinetic counterpoint all the while. The riff lasted less than a few minutes, and was astonishingly intense and authentic - and the ability of the players to gel together around what the crowd was giving and make it so much more was impressive.

My date had alerted me to keep an eye on the drummer's antics during the show, and he did not disappoint - while maintaining a certain reticence that is not unusual for a musician who's role is to hang out backstage, Chris Thomas pulled off many a visual prank for the audience's amusement. At least twice, I heard the crowd shouting out "CHRIIIIIISSSS!" which is probably the first time a drummer has been cheered with such enthusiasm during a performance. Second time if you count Florida A&M's marching band.

Front man Owen Thomas made a heartfelt plea to the crowd to be good to one another before launching into "This is How the World will end." (An acoustic recording from the Elms is available from Africa Water is Life.)

Thom Daugherty was first and last onstage; he came out to play a solo from a cover of Tom Petty's Free Falling with Green River Ordinance. I had the sense that he was so keen to play he had to get out there and do it (and notably Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is cited by the Elms as a major influence). At the end of the night, his chords were still ringing in my ears.

Most of the songs played were from their latest album, "The Great American Midrange." Opening for the Elms were Green River Ordinance and Henry French & The Shameless. GRO, kudos for your final acoustic play, it was solid - and HF&tS, thanks for your fun set. Note to the guitarist from GRO: my father in law called, and he wants his hat back.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Doing some things wrong beats doing nothing.

Sorry - On Australia DayImage by spud murphy via Flickr
From a recent article of mine published at Mike Moran's Biznology:
And then the very next day, Facebook tweaks its feeds (and its members), once again outraging the commenting public and causing a re-surge in interest in commentary on the last time Facebook horked its users, and spurred the creation of a lot of Facebook activity in reaction. Of course, all this new activity and focus is happening on Facebook, so I don't really suppose the Facebook upper echelons are sweating it right now. I suspect instead that they might be limbering up their apology muscles, since it seems every few months they apologize for some change to Facebook.Eva Lyford, Biznology Blog by Mike Moran, Oct 2009
Check out the whole article.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

reBlog from EvaLyford: Biznology Blog by Mike Moran

...thé ou café...!!!Image by Denis Collette...!!! via Flickr

Are you considering pulling up a chair and getting comfortable with your business using social media? I recently blogged about Groundswell, and it offers solid insight in participating in the Web 2.0. Here's part of the article I wrote:

"While it is true that there are dangers in engaging with the groundswell, don't forget that the groundswell also reveals your smarts--check out just how many people brag about great service on Twitter, make fan sites or sign up to "be a fan" on Facebook. Furthermore, I still maintain that it isn't a valid choice for a company to ignore what's going on online--the groundswell is happening, with or without your participation. And it is happening with people just like you and me, who just need to be willing to risk participation--and strive for the rewards."Eva Lyford, Biznology Blog by Mike Moran, Oct 2009

Check out the whole article, Are you capable of Groundswell thinking?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

reBlog from EvaLyford: Biznology Blog by Mike Moran

Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Federal T...Image via Wikipedia

I have a new article published at the Biznology blog today, here's an exerpt:

Second, some people expect the FTC to start policing the blogosphere, although I don't. It is much more likely that the FTC would look for patterns of undisclosed endorsements and target the companies paying for such. So if you're not motivated already to make sure your compensation for recommendations is disclosed, perhaps the threat of a fine will provide some motivation. Note that the terms of the fine are per incident—so a single company paying for 10 bloggers to promote their product in an undisclosed fashion could easily be facing a six-figure fine.Eva Lyford, Biznology Blog, Oct 2009

Check out the entire article at Biznology.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lost Dog now found

Update: Beau returned home on his own. Yes, he is now grounded. He's got some nicks and scratches but is otherwise hale and hearty. Thanks so much to everyone who helped with the search, and if you see a wandering dog don't assume it is an unwanted stray - someone may be looking for that dog very urgently and losing sleep over their disappearance.

Beauregard (with help from a ghostwriter) is a blogger on Indypaws too and we are grateful for the help from the Indypaws community in finding Beauregard. Beau has been reported missing to the Humane Society of Indianapolis, the Hamilton County Humane Society, the Carmel police department, 24PetWatch (they track his microchip number and any reports of it being scanned),, and Craigslist. There are flyers posted in the neighborhood, along the main street, and at the kids' school.

If you can think of any other suggestions please post in the comments. Wishing Beau a safe and speedy return is much appreciated also.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

reBlog from EvaLyford: Biznology Blog by Mike Moran

I found this fascinating quote today:

It sounds like Telkom SA just missed a big opportunity to partner with Unlimited IT and address a systemic issue that plagues them both. It is time to step up your game. Let's imagine for a moment an alternate universe, where Telkom SA's response looks like this...Eva Lyford, Biznology Blog by Mike Moran, Sep 2009

read the rest of the article, Opportunity Costs in Social Media, at Biznology.

Telkom SA, Ltd.Image via Wikipedia



Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Elms Great American Midrange is a genuine 100% listenable album

I was delighted to listen to "The Great American Midrange" yesterday and realize not once had I been compelled to skip a track or two - how long has it been since *you* had an album worth listening to straight through? The songs are each carefully constructed, passionate, and easy to get immersed into. There's a lot of variety from track to track and even within a song, while not sacrificing a coherent narrative. A Midwesterner like me hears the themes of local life as I know it and that authenticity is moving.

The lyrics are poetic and clever. The songs range from the powerful ("Thunderhead" and "Strut"), the race-worthy "Back to Indiana" and the soul baring "The Little Ways." The coming-of-age story behind "Unless God Appears First," addresses regret and repentance in the tradition of the blues but with a modern, neo-apathetic twist. An untitled bonus track is a sweet and savory ending to the album.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

reBlog from EvaLyford: Biznology Blog by Mike Moran

QIImage via Wikipedia

I have a new blog post up regarding an endorsement of a book as a good case study for social marketing:

Stephen Fry might not be well-known in the US, but he's almost a national treasure in England. He's a rarity, in that he is both a celebrity and an intellectual. Fry's entertaining QI show and wide-ranging intellectual interests have devoted followings. He is a Man Who Knows Of What He Speaks when it comes to an intellectual's fare. So an endorsement, however flip, has the weight of authority behind it.EvaLyford, Biznology Blog by Mike Moran, Sep 2009

You should read the whole article.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

How to dry a shirt in the microwave in 5 minutes in less than 10 steps

when it is that special shirt which you promised would be clean for school photo day but isn't.

This one is for all the working moms.

Your mileage may vary, no warranty implied, not recommended for anyone ever, and no I'm not liable if you follow instructions posted on the internet what kind of crazy person are you? You probably diagnose yourself based on the Mayo Clinic site so I suppose you know what you're doing.
  1. Start with one wet, clean, fire-resistant shirt with no metal fashion or plastic elements. Do not try this with a dirty shirt or your whole kitchen will stink like a dirty, abandoned shirt found in the corner of a Greyhound bus station. Wring the shirt out to within an inch of its life.
  2. Put the shirt in a covered bowl, so that if it catches on fire, you only have to replace a bowl, a cover, and a shirt, and not an entire microwave. Who says I can't plan ahead?
  3. Stop now and attempt to renegotiate with the child. Surely you can find another shirt in the closet? Can stop at the store and get one? Can skip the photo day? If no, proceed with caution.
  4. Microwave the shirt for 10 seconds on 50% power.
  5. Remove with potholders, it will be hot. Seriously hot. Waft the shirt around until it cools.
  6. The rigorousness of your wafting will be the greatest contribution you can make to shortened drying time. So work those triceps.
  7. Is it mostly dry? If not, repeat steps 3, 4 and 5. Continued dampness of the shirt may allow for additional persuasion per step 3 with any but the most stubborn client consenting.
  8. Once the shirt is mostly dry, put it on the client and explain that body heat will complete the drying cycle. Provide a sweater to augment the body heat drying cycle.
Prepare yourself mentally to get back school photos of the kid in the sweater because it slipped his mind to take off the sweater and be photographed in the special shirt.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

reBlog from EvaLyford: Biznology Blog by Mike Moran

There's plenty of products out there that looked like dross until the community was found for them and the context provided. Who here was using a computer in the 1980s? Screen savers were trivial oddities then. By end of the decade they became personal expressions of humor, or even astute ways to guard a personal investment from dreaded Burn In, and something people shelled out cash for even though it was by definition unproductive and repetitive software. The community of home users was where screen savers went wild. Context was provided through comparison to the dreadful CRTs we abused our eyes with at work; we much preferred flying toasters to green pictures drawn with letters and numbers.EvaLyford, Biznology Blog by Mike Moran, Sep 2009

You should read the whole article.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

reBlog from Biznology Blog by Mike Moran

From an article of mine published at Biznology yesterday:

Example the first: United Breaks Guitars is a rant from one musician, Dave Carroll, who dearly loves his Taylor guitar. I couldn't hope to relate the story in as entertaining a manner as he does, so watch the video to get the summary of what happened. This video has had 5,342,399 views today. That's 5 million. Five million. How much would United have to spend to reach that many people and engage them for 4:36 minutes a piece? Out of curiosity, and because in some reptilian part of my brain there lives a direct marketer, I tried to figure out what conversion rate Dave Carroll had achieved with this. I added up all the blog posts, Google hits, YouTube comments and ratings, and determined that 12% of those who viewed the video responded in some way. Any direct marketer with that kind of response rate would squeal like a little girl. At least I would, in a scaly reptilian way.Eva Lyford, Biznology Blog by Mike Moran, Sep 2009

You should read the whole article.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

7 (x1) Samurai by David Gaines

Tonight I was downtown to throng with the theatre folks and promote Indyprov's Welcome to Blanksville. That accomplished, I set out to see my one Must See show for IndyFringe (besides my own :) ) - a show about Samurai, by a mime trained in commedia del arte and improvisation. It was as though they had brought A Show Specifically for Eva to IndyFringe!

Seven (x1) Samurai by David Grimes features a cast of 1 and 30+ characters... maybe more, it was hard to keep count. I was riveted by Grime's expressive features and amused mightily by his comedic timing. I loved the way that improvisation and lack of props was such an asset for him; he did some completely insensible things with his imaginary devices, such as sharpening his hand on a whetstone, which would have been stupidly inefficient to stage with props and massively stupid to do in real life. All the set items - doors, a ditch, a horse - were drawn or otherwise indicated. In improvisation these elements shone out like gems on jeweler's velvet. Grimes made a point at times to act in profile, back presented to the audience; although violating a cardinal rule of actors to never turn back on an audience, this worked mightily as doing so presented a different costume effect for some characters. Grimes physical control was such that he could pull it of, even with his neck contorted at a mighty steep angle.

I was seated next to a deaf man (or at least severely hearing impaired man); he clearly enjoyed the show mightily, and the dialogue was so sparse that I'm sure he could get the plot and relationship develpment just from the gestures and interactions. I suspect even those with limited English would get 90% of the show. My son, aged 9, saw the plot with me and was in complete awe of Grimes near-adolescent mastery of the art of making bodily noises using his mouth. Note also that I found the content completely appropriate for him to see and I would recommend it for kids; the violence was far less than what might be shown on a Three Stooges reel. The sexual humor was limited to one leering brigand chasing a peasant woman, which I've even seen on a Schoolhouse Rock episode. Of course, I have a rather broad minded approach to kids and art, so your mileage may vary with your own kids.

The show concluded, the audience stood to applaud, and my son begged to come back and see it again. What higher praise could I give than that of a child?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why I support a public option for healthcare

Please, please bring on a public option for heathcare. Cover the gaps due to employment change, don't make people chose between avoiding poverty and illness, and stop denying coverage to people who need it.

I know people personally today who are facing serious illness and gaps and not having as much luck as I did when I faced similar issues (and frankly I didn't feel lucky at the time). Check out my blog pal David's thoughts on healthcare; and I know he's ill, but that isn't what his blog is about. He's facing his illness without letting it define him and I admire that. There's my friend Tom, he of the scintillating wit and the Spanglish Soap Opera fame, who is recovering from an unexpected stroke. I'll be helping raise funds later to cover the medical costs through a fundraiser for him at his church. It seems terrible that we're counting on the equivalent of a bake sale to help save someone from medical debt, but there you are. There's my dear friend Tracy, who would have many eloquent things to say on the topic of healthcare reform but she isn't here to say them. And I can't try without tearing up, and I seem to be out of tissue right now.

I don't want to give up my current employer-sponsored plan. I would probably prefer a private insurance option if I faced a gap in employment again. But if neither of those were available, shouldn't there be an alternative that would cover me and people like me and my friends?

IHere's my story: in the past 10 years, I've held 12 jobs. 13 if you count the theater work I do, which I don't because it feels more like a hobby and fun and 13 is unlucky. But my best jobs have been fun, so perhaps I should count it. I'm not a transient worker, I'm not undependable, I've got portable skills and I've never left a job for cause - but RIFs and reorganizations are common nowadays, and I've not been immune. I've had three gaps in employment. Two times I lost employer-provided insurance. My choices were: 1) go without insurance 2) find a private policy or 3) pay for Cobra.

The first time, I opted for Cobra, expecting it would be a short gap. Cobra only offers employers the thin veneer of psuedo-responsibility to make them feel better after they release someone. But in fairness to the company, they aren't enhancing shareholder value by insuring people who don't work there, so I can't blame them for the approach. I ended up unemployed for 9 months. I took a part-time job at Border's when the gap was stretching out. Even with unemployment benefits and part-time work, I never made as much in a month as I was paying for heathcare. Eventually, we ended up uninsured, with 2 kids under 2 years old. I tried to get private insurance, but since I'd had pre-existing back pain issues the costs were exorbitant. Then my son had an emergency room visit, which was very, very expensive to be faced with in my situation. I remember he was bleeding on me and I started wondering if I could afford treatment in the ER or maybe he didn't really need to go. When I hit that point mentally, I realized I couldn't make an unbiased decision about his healthcare because money was getting in the way of health. I decided then that whatever debt there would be I could deal with later, so we went. I could always earn more money later, but you can't buy back health.

After his stitches were in I tried to get the kids enrolled on the State of Illinois plan for Children's health insurance, which was a joke. The paperwork burden was immense, and intrusive. No one who knew anything about the program was available to help by phone or in person. I called, phone calls were not returned. I went to offices, waited half a day, and couldn't get any answers. The system wasn't set up to understand that my tax returns and last job's pay stubs didn't reflect the then-current reality of negative cash flow. I still don't think that my kids small college funds were moot to the evaluation, but they wanted those statement balances, as an example, and tracking down every nit and gnat they wanted was a fool's errand. I've got a graduate degree and had the time to figure this out since I was unemployed, and still couldn't get the kids enrolled.

I was trying at that point to be a stay at home mom, something which I'll never know whether I'd be good at or not. I suspect not, but would have liked the chance to try. I gave up on the effort, figured I could better use my time in other ways to get out of the situation. I buckled down on my job search and took a job for 1/4 of my previous salary but it had benefits and was enough for me to pay for daycare. So I accepted gratefully.

The other time I had a gap, I opted for private insurance and that worked far better for us. But it wouldn't have worked at all, except that my back issues were far enough ago that they didn't count as a pre-existing condition anymore. I felt very, very grateful that my back hadn't troubled me much in the previous 5 years.
If I couldn't figure out how to use the supposedly-available programs, then how would someone fare who had less education than I had? If I was mentally anguished trying to figure out if I could afford an ER visit for my son, how would someone in more dire straights be able to handle that? What if my pre-existing conditions had occurred more recently? What if I wasn't able plan on earning more money in the future?

If you disagree, I can respect that. But please keep the dialog to the facts of what's actually in the proposed plan - you can leave out the death panels.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Google still loves me

The past few days I've been feeling hurt by conflicting loyalties. Apple, I love you but why are you not letting Google Voice apps on the App Store?

Google showed me love with an upgrade in March to Google Voice (has it really been that short a time?) and now a small token of affection, some sparkly new contact cards featuring my Google Voice number. Perhaps I was selected because I'd been a grand central customer before, but I don't really know.

The gift was free and offered a selection of calling cards, personal cards or business cards. Registration was easy - if this is how easy is to work with generally, kudos to them.

Now I'm just waiting for an iphone app that will let me use Google Voice. Hey, is that a shiny new Android phone over there?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Template sharing with google docs

Google docs recently made available a social feature - an option to upload templates to Google docs. Google began offering 300+ templates for use on Google Docs in 2008, and the service continues to become more useful. This includes ratings for templates and user counts. Curious, I decided to give it a shot and uploaded my kid's chore chart. Let me know if you find it - and the Google docs template sharing - useful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Digital TV converter box? No thanks.

On the way home from work today I was listening to NPR because that's how this homey rolls, and I heard a statement which just startled me: about 3.1 million homes are not prepared for the conversion to digital tv. According to the article, this includes the elderly and poor, those with language issues. Oh, and procrastinators too.

I wasn't startled by the number, which is actually less than I expected. I was perplexed by the newsreader's declaration that only the elderly, the poor, those who don't speak English or even Engrish, and (oh! the horror!) procrastinators would be cast adrift without their converter boxes. A viler cast of ne'er-do-wells surely could not be found! If only they hadn't put the procrastinator in charge, they would have taken over Ikea by now.

But the lovely NPR folks neglected to list one group who is not prepared, a group dear to *my* heart: the purposefully apathetic. Despite the pleas of my mother and father, I can't summon up the will to care if the crap they serve up on TV goes away or not. When the digital tv conversion rolls around, I'll shrug. If I notice.

Don't get me wrong: I love well crafted video entertainment (note to unnamed friend: you still owe me two hours of my life back that were stolen from me watching your wedding video). The Top Gear channel on Youtube is a big draw in my household. National Geographic has 8 Channels online. There's nifty new programming like Dr. Horrible's sing along blog and the Improv Everywhere videos. The Indianapolis 500: Legacy DVDs were in heavy rotation last month. The Indianapolis Marion County Public Library has an absolute guru selecting DVDs for purchase, so they have a great selection. AND WKRP IS ON HULU.

The last time I actually watched a scheduled, non sporting network television broadcast was when the Drew Carey Show was on the air. And if I really got desperate for Drew Carey (seriously: has anyone ever said "desperate for Drew Carey" on the web before?!?) I can pick up episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway on Youtube (British or American versions, natch).

Just think, 3.1 million households not watching tv. For argument's sake let's say half of them either scramble and get a tv converter box, or find somewhere to mooch on a friend, are declared legally blind or apathetic about tv, or lurk in the neighbor's shrubbery to see in the window... at their tv. So 1.6 million households are now doing something else with their time. How much time? Nielsen says the average American spends 127.25 hours a month watching tv. The US Census says there are an average of 2.5 people per household as of 2008. That's 509,000,000 hours! To put it another way, that's the equivalent to half of the state of Wyoming working full time for a year. If everyone who didn't get a converter box just held their breath for a minute we could solve the global warming problem. Really! Probably. Ok, not.

Just don't expect me to hold my breath until I get a digital tv converter box. I'll be happily streaming content on my computer/iphone/wii, and looking for invites to come over and see the Colts game.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Listening sites a marketer should know about

originally posted on Biznology on June 3 2009 by Eva Lyford

Sure you probably use Google Alerts. And if you have the budget, you should be investing in conversation monitoring tools. But what if you don't have any money to spend at all? What can you do besides Google Alerts?Google Alerts

First, recognize that for savvy shoppers it is common practice to research pricing online before making a purchase. To mimic the customer behavior, go to your favorite coupon code site. I use retailmenot but there are many others. Search for coupons for your products and check out the ongoing discussion. How does this commentary reflect upon your price?Retailmenot

Second, you'll want to find out what happened to the product post purchase. Head over to the customer support forums at fixya or wikihow or your alternative support forum of choice. Many of these also have recommendations or ratings from the community about your product. How does what these customers say reflect upon your product?
Third, consider setting up your own hosted community to provide pricing and product support info. having a community built around your product could be a pretty handy thing for a marketer. It's not as cheap or easy as the first two ideas, but how would setting up a customer gathering place reflect upon you?

Companies, even ones without big budgets, need to be listening to their customers in new ways. Not only is it important that companies hear what customers say, but a company's brand image is often affected by whether customers feel heard. What are you doing to listen to your customers?

Related Biznology posts:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My iTunes widget

Sorry, Apple, but I think Amazon has a better MP3 widget. But just because I look at other sites doesn't mean I'd leave you, darling. Hook up with the my iTunes widget page to set up your own widget.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ecommerce quickly

Do you think setting up ecommerce for your company requires a corporate governance charter, many months of strategy sessions, and an organizational redesign? Well while all that is going on, why not set up a quick approach to ecommerce that can provide some actual quantitative data as to what kind of volume you can expect from your online sales? Also, this can provide a way to ramp up the necessary customer service and fulfillment operations to support an eventual full-featured ecommerce launch. And it takes only an hour or two to get up and rolling.
  1. Review the options available at the amazon astore
  2. Sign up at
  3. Select which option fits you best -
  • Simple link to my store as a standalone site.
  • Embed the store using an inline frame.
  • Embed the store using a frameset.
I like the inline frame, so I chose that.

Here's before:

and here's after, with minimal customization applied and placed on my domain:

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Friday, May 29, 2009

The Twitterest Spectacle in Racing

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 27:  Davey Hamilton, driver...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Twitter lends itself to direct-response contests. Have you considered running a tweet contest but have worried about how to get off to a good start? Vision Racing recently ran a twitter trivia contest in conjunction with the race mania for the Indianapolis 500 and they did it right.

On May 17, @VisionRacing had 1,285 followers and started a small trivia contest by asking some questions about the Indy 500 by - May 28 they had reached 1,473 followers.

And they weren't just gathering contest junkies and twitter follower system promoters. Their follower list now includes race fans, racing junkies, and speed freaks. Just the people they wanted to reach.

What did they do right? For one, their contest trivia were questions about well known racing facts - history only a race fan would know, or would care to look up. So they stayed true to their base. Next, they were generous - they gave prizes to more than just the first right answer, which generated good will and substantial chatter on twitter. Third, they timed it well - running the contest right at the peak of interest in the Indycar series, immediately before the Indianapolis 500 race.

Kudos to vision racing for running a cool twitter contest well.

And, thanks for the t-shirts and caps I won.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Frozen eggs, aka Oocyte cryopreservation

I recently read an article regarding a now available reproductive technology, which will assist many women with a variety of reproductive issues: egg freezing. One proposed application would be to help women who have to undergo surgical removal of their ovaries to still preserve their eggs for use at another date. It used to be that women who faced that situation were not only facing a life-threatening illness, but also facing the end of any hope of conceiving their own child. It is a marvelous application of technology to help these women to find a way to lessen the impact of their illness or disease on their future fertility.

Another application would be to help women who find it inconvenient to have children during the period in their lives when they are more fertile.

Here is the excerpt:

Why I Froze My Eggs By Rachel Lehmann-Haupt | NEWSWEEK

In October, I fly to Bologna to meet with Dr. Raffaella Fabbri and Dr. Eleanora Porcu, the biologist and clinician who invented the technology at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Bologna. When the two started working together in the 1980s, they never envisioned egg freezing as a way to fulfill women's desires to "have it all." They saw the possibility of freezing unfertilized eggs as a way to sidestep a ban on freezing embryos, which the Roman Catholic Church deemed immoral. As the technique improved, so did the success rates. The clinic has achieved a 28 percent pregnancy rate from frozen eggs compared with the 18 percent rate it reported two years earlier.

Fabbri and Porcu, however, are at odds with one another. Their debate goes straight to the heart of the issues that surround egg freezing and my own intensely emotional decision over whether to do it. Fabbri supports its commercial use to extend fertility. Porcu tells me that she believes that many U.S. statistics are exaggerated in order to lure customers. She thinks that women who have no alternatives, such as patients with cancer or patients who want to store eggs instead of embryos for moral reasons, should be free to use it. Giving healthy women the opportunity to freeze their eggs to postpone childbearing with an experimental technology, she believes, is harmful for feminism. "It means that we're accepting a mentality of efficiency in which pregnancy and motherhood are marginalized," she says. "We've demonstrated that we are able to do everything like men," she continues. "Now we have to do the second revolution, which is not to become dependent on a technology that involves surgical intervention. We have to be free to be pregnant when we are fertile and young."

On first principles I agree without reservation that having more options available for whatever a woman might choose to do, and protecting the availability of those options, is the core of feminism. But Porcu (as summarized here) makes a subtle point. Does exercising this technology of oocyte cryopreservation as an option (rather than as a requirement, as might be needed in medical situations) inherently constitute an anti-feminist position which marginalizes pregnancy and motherhood? These are, after all, key components (though not comprehensive attributes) of womanhood. Does a woman who exercises these options *as options* actually act in an anti-feminist manner which contributes to the marginalization of motherhood to an afterthought, an add-in, something to be worked in around a career rather than as part of an entire life for a woman? Does having this as an available option relieve the pressures towards coming up with a more balanced motherhood/careerhood balance?

Or is the issue really one of our humanity being parceled and scheduled at more convenient times for industry?

Frozen Egg image by sylvdoanx

Monday, May 25, 2009

Amazon mobile app and the death of rational ignorance

originally published at Biznology on 5/20/09 by Eva Lyford.

I changed my shopping habits recently by acquiring Amazon Mobile for iPhone. My 7-year-old, a careful student of anything having to do with Lego acquisition, has been studying me surreptitiously. It was probably the tugging on my arm and the caterwauling pleas for instruction that gave him away. I let him have a go with it and without any instruction he very shortly was doing comparison shopping for all his favorite objects of desire. (Legos, bionicles, and Wii cartridges comprising the universe of desire for him at this point.)

The app encourages the user to take a photo and send it off to Amazon for identification. A short time later Amazon returns a likely match, pricing info, ratings, an option to add it to your wish list, and recommendations for other products. Once my son understood the concept, he was off--photographing every likely Lego item he could see, and checking out the info Amazon brought back.

There is usually a cost associated with educating yourself on a product and its pricing, so most people will only educate themselves to the point where the savings compensate for the time invested in the education: this is referred to by economists as rational ignorance.

For example, I know that the gas stations in my area sell diesel for my VW Golf TDI at prices ranging from $2.17/gal to $2.09/gal, because I've seen the signs as I drive. ($2.09/gallon is about €0.41/ltr, gentle European readers.) When I need gas, though, I don't hunt around for the place that was advertising at $2.09--I just stop at the most convenient location. Because the 96¢ savings I would get by educating myself on where to find the $2.09 retailer isn't worth the hassle.

The Amazon app reduces the costs of educating myself to near zero; or, to be more specific, since I've already assumed the fixed costs of the 3G data service and the device, the variable costs of using it drop to near zero. This is shocking, when you consider it. Retailers in some way must count upon consumer's rational ignorance to drive their pricing decisions; a retailer can price an item higher by taking advantage of the rational ignorance zone, so long as they don't exceed the threshold point where consumers would find it worth their while to do the research on pricing and find the best deal. This started in a small way with shoppers finding the best deal on travel rather than heading to a travel agency, but the shopper was still required to sit at their desk and process the transaction on a full-sized computer. The introduction of the Amazon Mobile app--and other mobile shopping tools--will change the way we shop for goods in a way that hasn't been seen since hunter-gatherer tribes first started to gather in markets.

Where does this leave retailers? Do they have anywhere near as good of an information stream to tell them which of their suppliers is offering the best price? Amazon has a clear incentive to provide this information, and encourage a shopper in a store to consider delaying their purchase gratification to gain some savings. Does any supplier have a similar incentive? Soon enough the retailers will start behaving like consumers.

Retailers already want just-in-time inventory, low stocking costs, and supply-chain efficiency. Suppliers that provide their retailers with a tool that makes it easier for the retailer to buy from them will have an advantage. This won't work in every case; obviously Chrysler's dealers can't comparison shop to find Chrysler SUVs from another manufacturer. However, an auto manufacturer's supply chain experts can shop around to find the most economical provider of the parts they need for the assembly line.

So if you're a supplier, start considering: What can you provide to your customers to eradicate ignorance? Can your customers find what they want from you by casual searches on the web? And if you're a retailer, ask yourself : Which suppliers are providing you with the best information? Are you using search technology to kill off any vestige of ignorance?