Magazine Subscriptions - Renewed AutoWeek Today

AutoWeek has been reminding me for the last several months that my magazine subscription is about to expire. I've been a long-time customer of theirs and fully planned on renewing my subscription. After three or four mailings requesting my renewal and two issues exclaiming "this is your last issue" via a cover wrap I decided to do something. 

My normal course of action is to do some research first before paying the full price that is initially offered. First step was to pull up my account via AutoWeek.com and see if there was a renewal deal. Nope. Still $29.99 per year. I do think that's a good value for 52 issues so I'd be willing to pay that . . . but searching and finding a better price via the Internet gives me some great sense of accomplishment. Not that I want to "stick it" to AutoWeek (I don't), it's really just fun to hunt down that cheaper price and then swoop in for the kill. (Hunting instinct carried out on the web?)

It's my form of shopping, checking things out before I lay down the cash. So, after 5 minutes of Google searches, what did I pay for a year's subscription? $9.32! Woo Hoo! If you like to hunt down deals like I do, a Google search is all it takes to save you some dough. By the way, I found this deal at www.magazinemaster.com. For whatever reason, if you go directly to their website and search for AutoWeek, you don't get the special pricing. But when you search via Google you get a special link that includes the coupon code. Enjoy your hunt!


Exercising my right to vote

I voted today! Great experience, researching and finding information on the web - even watching YouTube videos from the local candidates. There is so much information readily available - you just have to be aware of what is wheat and what is chaff.

I heard that the state of Virginia expects a very high voter turnout - as much as 90%. Wow!


TV Technology Shift: Slingbox is Better

I spend a lot of time in my home office. As is typical, my home office setup includes a couple of computers, a couple of computer screens and a television. I'm finding the television is getting no love now that I watch TV on the computer screen via my Slingbox. Why? Side by side comparison shows the computer screen outshines the television in picture quality, audio and options. 

TV via Television or Computer?You see, the television is simply using the cable signal right out of the wall. I have a limited selection of channels since the signal is not going through a cable box first. (The TV is the monitor furthest to the left in the photo.)

Using the Slingbox and the computer screen, I have the full selection of channels, just as if I was sitting in my living room with the signal routing through the TiVo HD. That means I can watch the full palette of channels and anything I have stored on the TiVo as well. The Slingbox signal in my office is acquired via my wireless network, which makes the excellent quality that much more amazing. 

So, looks like there is no need to keep the television screen around. Or find another place for it - ooh, the garage!

More on the Slingbox: A Slingbox is a device connected between a cable box or TiVo and the television. It allows you to watch that signal via the internet and control it just like you were sitting in front of it. Perfect for watching television via the computer when you're away from home.


I've been Damplified! (Sound Deadener added to Audi TT.)

Regarding my last post about taking my time getting this sound deadener installed, I'm happy to report I finished the job this evening. Along with helping another TT owner install a boost gauge over the weekend, we worked on adding the sound absorbing "skin" to the area from just behind the front seats all the way back to the hatch latch. Since we did not finish, I spent the last 3 evenings after work cutting and laying out pieces to fit around the various curves and bends in the sheet metal. Before I put it all back together, I cleaned the rear seat bench and backs and vacuumed the heavy felt underlayment.

Since daylight has been disappearing much earlier lately, I did not take the TT out for a drive, I'll save the satisfaction of a quiter cabin for another day. Ahh, the great feeling of completing a job well done.


ATM Rant - Bad Luck or Bad Customer Service?

Remember the Ziggy cartoon strip? As you recall, Ziggy seems to be followed by a black cloud. Today I was reminded of Ziggy. I use an Automated Teller Machine maybe once or twice a month, and even more rarely to deposit a paper check.

In my infrequent experience, I have been the frequent victim of "this ATM is out of service" messages as I pull up to the machine. What?! I have observed a pattern . . . I drive by my ATM on the way to work each morning so that's when it's convenient to me to stop. I would think that an ATM would have a high rate of use during the morning drive times, but it also seems to be the time when bank employees shut down the ATMs for service (refilling it with cash I guess).

Don't they study these things? I suppose I'm the victim of my own expectation that the ATM should be up and running at my convenience - not at the convenience of the bank. Ziggy would just frown and try again another day. Which is what I'll do, too.


Impressions from Bodies The Exhibition

Spent some time downtown with friends Mike and Christine yesterday with plans for dinner after checking out the Bodies The Exhibition show. We met at the mall downtown (Indianapolis) and as we walked across the street we could smell the aroma coming from The Weber Grill restaurant. Mike pointed out that we'd be eating there once we experienced Bodies. Just so happens The Weber Grill is in the same building as Bodies, so as we entered the exhibit the aroma stayed with us and was, in fact, present throughout the building. (The exhibit is one floor below street level and the restaurant is at ground level; separate entrances.) 

The exhibit is made up of a series of partition-divided rooms, each with separate focus. The rooms are very dark, with displays lit separately. Signs indicating the focus welcome you at the entrance of each room (circulatory system, nervous system, digestive system, etc.). Most of the displays are Plexiglas cases or containers on a pedestal. 

I enjoyed learning the processes used to preserve the various areas of the human body. One most interesting was the circulatory system. Some type of fluid was introduced into the system, then the remainder of the body was "removed," leaving only the veins and arteries intact. On the creepy side was an entire human skin displayed inside a case. Wow! Speaking of skin, mine must be pretty thick because I did not think of these displays as "human" though obviously they are. We spent about an hour and a half exploring the dozen or so separate rooms, though one could study for days everything that was offered. This would be great for a high school biology or anatomy class - much better than studying earthworms and fetal pigs. 

In the last room, we were invited to handle a human brain and / or a Baboon's brain. I chose to handle the human's. It was a little heavier than I thought it would be . . . 

One last thought. I attended a health clinic of some kind when I was in first or second grade where a healthy human lung and a smoker's lung were displayed side by side. That same display was at this exhibit! < / sarcasm > Also displayed at Bodies was a number of other diseased organs, all kinds of them. 


Bodies The Exhibition

Bodies The ExhibitionFinally going to see Bodies The Exhibition tomorrow. While the controversy is significant, I'll put that aside and have an open mind to enjoy exploring the human body in ways most will rarely get the opportunity to do.

This exhibit has been on tour since 2005 and I've been anxiously awaiting it's arrival in the Indianapolis area. The controversy likely has been good for ticket sales - I'll find out when I step up to the ticket office for sure.


Communications basics in the office.

An office environment is made up of people with a range of personalities, needs, desires and skill levels. When managed even at a basic level the environment can be very healthy. We all know it's not easy to keep the balance with the variety of motivations employees (and managers) have during office hours. Here are some very basic tips or best practices I've learned "over the years."

  • Leave your personal baggage at the door when you walk in the office every morning. This is harder than it sounds since you spend a lot of time with your co-workers and some may even become friends that you trust. You then start to share your personal business and develop deeper relationships with those you work with. Back to my point . . . if you can practice taking a deep breath on your way in the door each day and thinking "I'm at work now" and put your personal business away to concentrate your efforts on work for the next 8-10 hours you'll be much better off. And so will those around you.
  • Don't assume others are at your beck and call. Everyone is busy. Practice this: "Is there time in your schedule to accommodate me for 10 minutes later today or tomorrow morning?"
  • Help others realize you are not at their beck and call. Practice this: "I'd really like to help, my schedule is full now, how about tomorrow morning?"
  • When another does walk into your office, have the courtesy to take your hands off your keyboard, look in their direction and give some sign of acknowledgment.
  • In the extreme basics category fall: say good morning; acknowledge one another when passing by in the hall; don't leave dirty dishes in the sink (must I go on?).
If you manage people, you have responsibilities as part of your job that are not practiced often enough:
  • Provide adequate resources to do the work expected.
  • Provide training and a source of advice when questions arise.
  • Listen.
  • Provide feedback. This is a big one for me. People want to know how they are doing. Am I doing well? Not so well? Tell me! What can I do to improve?
  • Another big one: Say thank you! In person. In front of others. Via email. During reviews. All of the above. Sounds simple but few practice what means so much to so many and can have such positive results.
I know some think it corny but one of the best exercises performed at a prior place of employment was to hire a consultant to conduct a personality seminar - you know, like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or similar. All benefited from the day, learning how to communicate effectively with other personality types. I'm sure it's still paying off, because I know as part of the hiring process that company now does some basic personality typing to not only help managers, but also help employees get the most out of the work environment.

Baseball playoffs in HD on TBS

I had been bummed that TBS was carrying some of the LCS games this year, and my cable provider only has TBS in "non-HD" aka "I can't stand to watch that it looks terrible" format. Then today my TiVo greeted me with a message that my "channel lineup has changed, select to read entire message." So I did and what do you know, I now have TBS in High Definition! 

Tampa Bay is in the playoffs? (j/k)


Like to roll around in your money? Next best thing: Mint.com

Spending Categories from Mint.comI've been using Mint.com for a few weeks now and I'm hooked. They do a great job of helping you visualize where you money is now, where it's been and where it's going. If you're one that can get past the somewhat insecure feeling you get when entering all your login data for your various income and expense accounts into one website (like me), then give it a try. I learned out this from a NY Times article by Ron Lieber, you might need a login at this link, give it a shot.

They recently added an Investments section - how timely to see how your 401(K) or IRA is tanking. You do see the good side, your contributions now are purchasing stock, bonds, etc. at cut-rate prices.

Using Mint.com also supports my habit to never use cash since it recognizes all your debit and credit card transactions and places them in the correct spending categories (after some training, if needed). If you use cash you have to then remember what you purchased and self-categorize (umm - no). There are so many other features, you'll have to explore and discover them on your own - you'll love it.

Sibling Similarity

My sister put up a new profile picture on her blog the other day that immediately reminded me of another photograph. My sister's photo was taken when she was about 9 years old, in 1974 1978 (she's on the right in the photo at right).  The picture I'm remembering was of me when I was 9 or ten (on the left in the photo at right). See the similarity? Danielle and Marty 2001

OK, yes, we are brother and sister so we should look alike, right? Now fast forward 25 years to the next photo. Hey what do you know? We still look alike and we're still brother and sister!


Sound proofing procrastination

Those who know me understand my passion for taking things apart. I try to find excuses to do so any time I can. I especially like to take apart my car (the Audi TT). Thankfully I've developed a 95% success rate for being able to put everything back together without any parts left over. 

Most recently, I have taken out the rear seat and seat backs, the spare tire, the trim around the rear hatch . . . well, everything from the front seats back. This in preparation for sound proofing with a special sound-absorbing product called Damplifier from Second Skin Audio. I'm not doing this install because I'm looking to improve the audio quality in the cabin, I'm doing it mainly because there is a certain amount of road noise inherent with any car - and with my TT I have just completed installing a 3" downpipe to finish off my custom exhaust system. It's not too loud, I simply want to dampen the road and exhaust noise that does make it into the passenger compartment. 

So I'm done with the fun, taking out all that stuff to get to the bare metal. Now it gets complicated which leads to why I'm procrastinating. It looks daunting from here! I have a box of 12" x 18" flat sheets of the Damplifier material looking at me every time I walk through the garage; it has adhesive backing to secure it to the metal. You have to cut it just so, place it and then roll it out with a small wooden or rubber roller in it's final home. I suppose I'll create paper templates based on the complex surfaces that I need to cover, then cut the material to size. That'll test my patience for sure but the payoff is when I get to put everything back together and enjoy my sense of accomplishment.


Trip to see my neices in Seattle

Yay! Just booked a trip to see my neices. This is what has become my yearly trek west in early December. I'm so glad it has become part of my year - these girls grow and change daily it seems! Naomi and Leah below.

Don't think too hard, just write about it.

My excuse for not posting more often to my blog was that I held close the thought of staying "on topic." I had chosen technology and marketing and I was going to stick to it. Well, now - not so much. I'll choose to write "on topic" every now and then but I want to write about other parts of "me" that include passion for the Audi TT, books, interesting people and places encountered - whatever comes to mind. Sure, when I find interesting technology and can weave it in to marketing, I'll write about it. 

Doug Karr helped me realize that my blog is about me, not about work or about someone else's expectation. Business blogs, on the other hand, carry some guidelines that should be adhered to. (This blog is not about winning a high search ranking or attracting readers.) 


New Airport in Indianapolis

Community Days this weekend, I took the tour Sunday. The new Indianapolis airport is due to open November 12, and the first day of the open house attracted 12,000 visitors. I was happy to read that the airport was built and will be run without taxpayer support. They did a good job marketing the event, with plenty of television and internet coverage. A large number of ambassadors were available to answer questions along the self-guided tour. I did find it very strange to have unfettered access to places within the terminal where normally one would be given the stink-eye under normal operating conditions. We were encouraged to explore freely, even around the security screening area and the tarmac to check out the equipment and chat with the personnel. 

What I found most interesting was that everybody was happy to be there, nobody was in a hurry and most carried smiles of pride at this new facility. More pictures of the new airport facility here.


Visit to Shoals and Loogootee today . . .

Took the day to meander south through the color and visit with mom and dad in Loogootee. It was so nice out, mom and I decided to drive some more and ended up on the 70 or so acres of land that I called home from 1975 - 1982. The house / cabin has been in various forms of disrepair over the past few years, with tenants choosing to make upgrades or to do damage. 

What was once a thriving garden is now overgrown with long, rough grasses and sticker-bushes that used to bear raspberries; the hours and hours spent collecting just the right rocks and building walls to berm the earth are barely visible though still intact; a family of Paw-Paw trees has taken residence just north of the house, standing in various angles shading the ground 20 feet below; and the remnants of outbuildings that housed tools or chickens or goats or pigs now house spiders and certaintly a variety of critters. 

What once was home to a young family of six now only holds vastly divergent memories of that time. We can't deny the significant impact of the experience, and recalling specific events today with mom only scratched at the vault in my mind. 


Ready for ReadyBoost?

I like power, I like speed. That's why I make my car go fast with fun modifications. So, when I started hearing about "readyboost" I thought this was another product or technique to make a turbo charged or super charged engine work more efficiently. Well, no. Microsoft quietly (to me anyway) released a feature for thier Windows Vista operating system that enables more efficient use of resources when you plug in a compatible flash memory device. (Like a USB thumb drive - you know, you've seen them I'm sure.) 

I carry around a 4GB thumb drive for backing up my files at work, and when I insert the drive in a  USB port a window pops up and one of the options is "speed up my computer with ReadyBoost." I have been ignoring that for a few weeks now since I thought it was some type of program the thumb drive manufacturer placed on the drive that you had to install. Well, I don't ignore it anymore! I clicked on it and it asks how much space you want to allocate on the thumb drive to this extra memory capacity. Nice.

I learned of all this through David Pogue's NY Times Circuits email . . . there was a link to an article How I Learned To Tolerate Vista by Stephen Williams. So now I'm cruising with extra speed and power with ReadyBoost. Funny how the message finally made it's way to me.


Peggy Noonan's Patriotic Grace

So I'm reading this book (yay, me - I'm reading a book!) at the perfect time. Patriotic Grace is WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan's observation on the current state of our country and it has me intrigued for several reasons.

One is the speed at which the book was brought in to the market. She wrote it as a quick sell, since after the election it won't hold as much relevance as it does now. Next, Ms. Noonan writes of some unknown challenge that the country will have to face, seemingly foreshadowing this "economic crisis" we are in right now. (Though what she may be referring to is something much worse, like another attack on our soil.) The debacle of our economy is the outcome of many points she makes throughout the book, that something tragic will result because we have not been taking care of what's been going on right under our noses.

She puts on paper some realities we have faced but don't want to admit. Like the fact that we've just "lost it" and need to get back to basics and treat each other with respect, with grace.

The book also helps me to realize that some pressures of the world we live in can affect your own self-respect. We aren't respecting one another, others don't respect this nation, so no wonder we may have lost some of what we once had. One wonders why they feel down every now and then - just wake up and look around. Yuk.

Thankfully, the book ends with a prescription on how we can regain what we once had. I should read more often.