My Sentiments Exactly

Good for Bob Parks and Bloomberg Businessweek for this article.  PowerPoint is indeed an overused medium, but I had no idea that 350 PowerPoint presentations are given every second.  That’s scary.

Part of my job is to talk with suppliers who want to do business with my company.  The ones that intrigue me the most are those that both a) come with a clear message and b) come without PowerPoint slides.  Unfortunately, a lot of suppliers can do either a or b, but few can do both.  Those that come with slides can tell you that I have a crazy good ability to predict exactly which slides are in their nicely spiralbound booklet, complete with hard plastic cover.  That’s how unoriginal most supplier presentations are.

But I digress from the point of this post and the article that spurred it.  The sentiments embodied by “Death to PowerPoint!” stem, I suspect, from many of us experiencing Death by PowerPoint.

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan famously wrote, “The medium is the message.”  Yet many deliverers of PowerPoint slides believe that the message is the medium and thus fail to deliver a message at all.


I Finally Understand the Digital Subscription Model

I’m in Dallas this weekend for a family event. As I write, the rest of the family is out of the hotel, shopping and seeing friends. If you knew me well, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I’m in the room watching baseball and reading on my iPad.

Over the past month or so, in fact, I’ve made a rather rapid transition to eliminate nearly all paper from my reading. I’m not talking about books; I was an early Kindle adopter. I’m talking about everything else: magazines, newspapers, blogs, web sites.

My reading has changed not because the content has gotten that much better, but because the apps are better and, therefore, the accessibility to the content is better. When you add in the ability to see video and listen to audio alongside the written word, I think digital media in the right app brings a much better experience than a hard copy newspaper or magazine.

It’s an experience that, in my opinion, finally justifies paying the same (or more) for a digital subscription. The days of free digital content have long been over, but now I’m a believer that is willing to pay.

My Sports Illustrated app brings me up-to-date news and tweets alongside the nearly stale article. The Businessweek app includes video and audio and often adds new content mid-week. You don’t have time to read The Economist? No problem. The app comes with a recorded soundtrack, with the articles read by very soothing British voices.

You get none of these with your paper copy. I also get my digital copy before your paper copy arrives in the mail.

Aggregation is huge as well. I use Newsify as my RSS reader. It displays all my feeds in easy-to-read tabloid format. I also dabble a bit with Flipboard, Zite, TrapIt, Pulse, and Daily Planet as news aggregator applications.

Newsify costs $0.99 on the app store. One time cost of $1.99? No problem.

For me, the digitization of media has turned the corner. I’m now able to read more with the iPad that I could ever before. This means that I am willing to pay for more content than ever before. I now understand why The Economist charges the same for a digital subscription and a print+digital subscription. I now understand why The Wall Street Journal charges over double per week to add digital access to print-only access.

When my SI and BW subscriptions are up for renewal, I want digital only. If digital only isn’t available, I’ll pay for the paper, but recycle the paper right away. At least I’m environmentally friendly?

Surgical Shopping

And so launches of my campaign to introduce “Surgical Shopping” into the mix for a future Olympic competition.  Frankly, I want a competition I can win.  After all, how many people can try on four blue blazers, settle on a $500 model, and buy it with alterations in 15 minutes?  I can.

Surgical Shopping is the sport of purchasing an item in a public shopping mall or big box store with the appropriate combination of speed, cost, quality, and intangibles.  There are two variations:

  • “Open” Surgical Shopping:  athletes can buy any item they want.
  • “Targeted” Surgical Shopping: athletes all must buy the same item.

Each of these two can also be further clarified by asking athletes to stay within a specific budget or achieve a specific discount off list price.

While Surgical Shopping has female, male, and pairs competitions, I think this will appeal most to the stereotypical male (thanks Dagwood), who’d rather eat pizza and watch sports than go shopping.  Women typically struggle in this sport, due to their inability to focus in a store, especially in a place like Target, where bargains on unneeded items are always in sight.

Once the item is purchased, and the contest returns to the staring line, judges score what we call “the get” based on the following:

  1. Price
  2. Speed
  3. Ability to return the item
  4. Quality (either by experts or carefully pre-calculated tables, as in diving or gymnastics)
  5. Degree of difficulty in buying, based on a number of factors including variety in the category, necessary prep or alterations, need for financing, ability to self-serve or availability of salespeople, body shape and size (for clothing), etc.

For example:

  • Purchasing a Hamilton Beach drip coffee maker for $19.99 in 5 minutes at Target might not score as high as purchasing DeLonghi espresso maker for $166.73 at Williams Sonoma in 15 minutes.  The quality difference is evident and getting the focus of the snooty salesperson in Williams Sonoma is a struggle.
  • If the category is snacks, buying gourmet chips and salsa for $10 might (or might not) beat out Reese’s peanut butter cups grabbed at the register for $1.75.  Depends on the specifics of the competition and the taste buds of the judges.
  • If two men buy the same suit for the same price at the same store in the same elapsed time, but one requires alterations and the other doesn’t, the one with alterations will win every time.

I compete in Surgical Shopping every time I make a purchase.  For example, I bought two pairs of shoes yesterday at Nordstrom in about 20 minutes.  It took five minutes to browse and select the shoes I wanted.  The salesperson took five minutes to find the shoes (which would have really caused a problem in getting a medal).  It took about 7 minutes to find the right pair, as the first size didn’t fit.  Lastly, it took about three minutes at the cash register, slowed by a faulty credit card reader and confusion about the price. If this had been the Olympics, my only hope would have been points for the quality of the shoes, the quality of the store, and the returnability and refundability, which isn’t always available with shoes but is at Nordstrom.

If ESPN 8, “The Ocho” really existed, I’m sure this would be in prime time.  It would open up competition to a whole new set of athletes, who think they are the only ones that can buy a new car during halftime of a football game or a tuxedo with alterations the day before a wedding.

Just imagine Brent Musburger – “You are looking live at the Mall of America just outside Minneapolis where, despite the freezing temperatures, 100 of the world’s best surgical shoppers are ready for what only can be described as the Surgical Shopping competition from hell. May the best shopper win!”

Todd Akin Makes a Name for Himself – and Paul Ryan

I couldn’t have imagine writing a post about Todd Akin before yesterday. Now, it’s a must.

I moved to Chesterfield, Missouri over 10 years ago, and, candidly, I never really paid attention to who my congressman was/is. Only in the past few years, did I realize that my congressman is a very, very right wing conservative. I voted against him every two years like clockwork, but he got elected anyway.

I knew there was a Republican primary for senator only because of the local television commercials that ran over and over and over for Akin, Dave Spence, and Sarah Steelman. I was out of town when Akin won and didn’t even know for a few days afterward that he did.

Now – everyone knows him. He’s all over the web and television. Heck, he’s even on the front page of the Financial Times’ website. Yes – Akin has made a name for himself globally.

In the end, Todd Akin has done himself harm, the Republicans harm, and the Democrats good. Claire McCaskill ran commercials telling folks how conservative Akin was and helped to get him elected, knowing that he’d make a starker comparison and an easier components. She got what she wanted.

Yes, the Republicans now have a problem in Missouri – a senate seat they hoped to pick up. The real problem, however, may lie with the presumed VP nominee Paul Ryan. Akin’s verbal nightmare opens the door for some questions.

Tell us Mr. Ryan – do you believe that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape? What’s that?

No.  You can’t change your mind, but I guess it’s too late.

It Was Over a Year Ago

I woke up this morning thinking knowing that it had been a very long time since I had posted to my blog.  I thought it might be exactly a year.  I was disappointed to learn that it has, in fact, been a year and 11 days.  You can see that just below this post.

That’s depressing.  I do like writing.  Why the gap?  Many reasons, I guess.  

The regular job takes up a lot of time.  It’s difficult to come up with topics.  The posts take too much time.  Twitter and message boards have replaced the blog for communications. (However, I still don’t use Facebook.)

I’m getting myself organized a bit more these days.  My desk at work is free of papers.  My personal email only has four in the Inbox.  I’m deleting myself from marketing emails and, as soon as I finish this, I’m going to clean off my desk at home.

I’m hopeful that getting organized means more time for writing.  Shorter posts, definitely.  A more consistent theme, perhaps.  I don’t know.  My interests haven’t shifted – travel, hockey, organizational behavior, family.

I can only hope that I won’t be writing you again on August 19, 2013 with the same thoughts.

Now Trackable on AT&T: Our First Driver

Somewhere around 12:00pm CDT this afternoon, August 8, 2011, our son, our eldest, took the car out by himself for the very first time.  I am happy to say he made it to school and back safely, with a stop, of course, at the drive-thru at McDonald’s.  Driving makes one hungry, I guess.

I know he made it to school, because I am now able to track him via his mobile phone, for the low, low, low cost of $9.95 per month with AT&T.  (Thank goodness your parents couldn’t do that, right?)

As I consider our eldest getting his license and driving away, I’m not going to write about how he was born seemingly yesterday.  I’m not going to lament the cost of insurance ($83 per month, if you are interested).

I’m not going to write about how Mrs. Spidey and I now worry minute-by-minute when he’s out, and I’m not going to celebrate that he can now shuttle our 13-year-old around instead of us.

Wait.  Yes.  I will celebrate/am celebrating that he can now shuttle our 13-year-old around instead of us.  I shouldn’t forget that.

Now that I’ve celebrated, I’ll tell you what I’m thinking.

I’m thinking this is a rite of passage that we’ve all been through as 16-year-old kids.

I’m thinking about how my brave, brave mother took me for my license on my birthday and then let me take the car to school that day.

I’m thinking that I survived learning how to drive while making some mistakes.

I’m thinking my mother and father survived four kids getting driver’s licenses and making mistakes.

I’m thinking this is an exciting time for our son and for Mrs. Spidey and me.  In many ways, we both get freedom.

The primary difference is that his freedom is trackable on my iPhone via AT&T.

I’m Back

So my last post (not about weight loss) was October 29, 2010.  That’s 121 days ago.  It’s time to start writing again.

I thought nearly every day about posting something, but just couldn’t seem to find the time or make it a priority.  I changed jobs at my company right about then.  I was about to embark on a weight loss program that I would document (but even that documentation quickly fell by the wayside).  We were also in the final stages of planning for my daughter’s bat mitzvah, which went off without nary a hitch on February 12.  (By the way – I did lose that 13 pounds in 13 weeks.)

I missed writing.  I missed writing a lot.  I had started over the summer time with a goal to write every single day.  I even created sections of my blog where I’d write on a different topic every day.  It was ambitious, for sure.  But, to be honest, I needed the blog to distract me from a very difficult time at work, one where there were many days that I thought I would get let go.  When you have very little to do, and no one seems to care, that’s a bad sign.  When you have a wife and two kids to support and you think you might lose your job every day, that’s not good for your psyche.  So, I dove into Life With Spidey and had a lot of fun with it.

Last July, I saw an internal posting for a job that could end my angst and worry and bring me back to a job I had done and loved before. I saw the job posting by accident, as I’m not one who trolls our internal postings looking for another opportunity.  Flash forward a few months later, and I am up to my gills in work that I really enjoy and seemingly have that job security that I so longed for.

This morning, I read an article in this morning’s New York Times about the writer and creator of  It’s an interesting article, partly about founder Heather Armstrong and how she went about creating a blog that millions of folks read and partly about the phenomenon of mommy blogs.  While I have zero ambition to grow Life With Spidey into, reading about how she continued to blog through life’s ups and downs spurred me to sit down at my computer and start writing again.

So, it’s time to restart.  Here we go.

Why Won’t St. Louis High School Hockey Change With the Times?

My son Joey, his teammates Will, Andy and Brandon played varsity ice hockey for Parkway Central High School last year in Chesterfield, Missouri. The team finished 17-4, but was upset by Pattonville in the first round of the season-ending tournament. As we begin planning for next year’s season, they are the only remaining players from last year’s roster of 16 players. Eight seniors graduated, one junior is focusing on his AAA team, one junior is focusing on academics, one player’s knee problems have ended his hockey career, and a final player is from out-of-district and hasn’t committed. There is but one incoming freshman outskater interested in playing.

If they want to continue playing high school hockey, Joey and his teammates will almost certainly be forced to separate and play for different schools in the St. Louis area — unless the Mid-States Club Hockey Association, the governing body for high school hockey in St. Louis, finally recognizes the problem and makes some changes. These changes are easily implemented and will not upset the competitive balance within the league.

Sadly, this situation is but one example of declining participation in high school hockey in the St. Louis metropolitan area. This is, even more sadly, not just a St. Louis phenomenon, but something happening in many parts of the country. When I read articles like this one from Minnesota Public Radio about declining participation Minneapolis High School Hockey, an area known for hockey fervor, it’s clear the problem is widespread. The decline in youth hockey is due to factors including more club hockey teams for the top players, cost, travel and practice/game times, but also due to the rise in popularity of soccer and off-season baseball (fallball), not to mention the myriad of other activities available to high school students.

In the St. Louis metro area, schools that once had enough players to fill three rosters just a few years ago, now struggle to field a varsity team, with the notion of a junior varsity long since forgotten. Without rules changes, I estimate that 5 to 7 of the 36 schools that fielded teams for the 2009-2010 season may not return, and more will fold the following year. This will likely mean that some kids, perhaps my son, will decide not to continue playing a sport that they love and have been playing since mini-mites.

The solution lies with the Mid-States Club Hockey Association rules, but the individuals with the power to change the rules won’t budge. I don’t really understand why they won’t budget.

The changes necessary lie in roster size changes or in allowing team mergers.

Today, Mid-States requires a minimum of 12 rostered players to create a team, not including goalies. Once that roster is filed with Mid-States, the school may increase the roster to 16 players, either through a draft of players cut from their high school team or through free-agents, players whose schools do not have a team. It’s not clear how many players were added through either mechanism last year, but I know that demand far outstripped supply.

The rules create some situations where seemingly easy solutions to allow kids to play together can’t be implemented. For example, two schools might have 8 players each. Neither can form a team, because they can’t get to 12, although combined, they’d be 16. Or, one school might have 12 and a school like Parkway Central has 5. Our five can’t be added to the 12, because it exceeds 16. (I could go on indefinitely about the logic of combining teams that have 15 each to allow for a varsity and junior varsity, but I won’t.)

The Mid-States leaders have steadfastly refused to address this situation through lowering minimum roster sizes, increasing maximum roster sizes, or allowing schools to merge teams. Somehow merged teams work in Minneapolis (see the article noted above), but they can’t work in St. Louis.

We asked Mid-States within their rules change process to decrease minimum roster size to 9 and increase maximum roster size to 20. This was rejected, although we got no feedback and, therefore don’t know why. Candidly, if they were to implement these changes, we believe most kids that want to play with their schoolmates will be able to.

Mid-States’ fear, we believe, is upsetting the competitive balance of the league. I’d be happy to set up practice games between some of the top teams and teams created from schools with less than the minimum number of players to allay their fears. It won’t be a problem.

We are reaching out to other teams in St. Louis to get their support. We are writing the Board Members directly. However, I am now posting here and have broadcast on Facebook and through Twitter, as a way to push Mid-States to act.

I am asking for readers’ help. If the Mid-States Board will not respond to us, perhaps they will respond to other parents who understand this situation.

If you are sympathetic to our cause, drop a note to Jeff Hayes, the President of Mid-States (, or John Nichols, the Vice President of Mid-States ( to let them know how you feel. If you are very ambitious, let me know, and I’ll send you the email addresses of the whole Mid-States roster.

St. Louis High School Hockey needs to change with the times.

I want Mid-States to live up to its by-laws which list as one of its purposes: “To develop, encourage and regulate the game of ice hockey as a High School sport, in the State of Missouri for the benefit of, and exclusely for, students and their respective schools, and so the sport is made available to more students at the lowest possible cost.”

The Life With Spidey Posting Schedule

As I wrote on June 8, I’ve taken the plunge with a commitment to post to Life With Spidey on a daily basis. So far, so good, six days later.

To make it easier on my readers (whoever you are) and, frankly, easier on myself, each day of the week will be dedicated going forward to a specific topic, with Saturdays reserved for something random.

The Life With Spidey Posting Schedule

Sunday:                Sports — starting with tonight’s post about the vuvuzela

Monday:              Diet and Exercise — see tomorrow’s post for more information

Tuesday:              Family — 2 kids, a dog and 18 years of marriage = blog topics

Wednesday:       Travel – an interest of mine, as I’ve done quite a bit for work and fun

Thursday:           The Blogsphere – comments on things I’ve found of interest elsewhere

Friday:                 Work – when you work for a Fortune 100 company, you have a lot to write

Saturday:            Potpourri (as Alex Trebek might say)

I’ll use categories going forward to track things.  Should be fun.  Suggestions are welcome.

Jury Duty Wrap – The Lighter Side

With apologies to David Letterman (Top Ten), Peter King from Sports Illustrated (Things I Think I Think) and Seth Meyers & Amy Poehler from SNL (Really?!), I present my Top Ten Things I Really Think I Think after serving jury duty this week.

#10.    There is nothing on earth more boring than hearing a deposition read back to you in a courtroom. I’m disappointed that the male intern who read a woman’s deposition didn’t move his voice to a higher pitch.

#9.     10 cops to guard one x-ray machine and one metal detector at the courtroom entrance is overkill and a waste of my tax dollars.

#8.     I must live in a bubble. A number of jurors and the bailiff had never seen a Kindle before. Question from the bailiff – “Does that thing send emails?”

#7.     An entire sitcom could be based on activity in the jury room. True quotes:

Max Baer, Jr. -- Not Dead

  • “You know what that reminded me of? My Cousin Vinny.” Response from a few others – “I was going to say the same thing.”
  • “I’m telling you. Max Baer, Jr. is dead.”
  • “Did you see her panties?”
  • “You were sleeping.” “Was not.” “Were too.” “Was not. “Were too.”
  • “What do you think of the plaintiff attorney’s hair?”
  • “We have absolutely no idea what your name is.”
  • [looking at iPod nano] – “I want a phone like his that takes pictures.”

#6.     A Chipotle burrito during lunch before a long afternoon session in court is an exceptionally poor decision.

#5.     Jury chairs that lean back to about 135 degrees are dangerous as the 2pm lunch coma combines with a boring witness.

#4.     It’s comforting to know that the judge sometimes often falls asleep as well.

#3.     I’m not calling the plaintiff’s attorneys to represent me anytime soon. One plaintiff attorney’s real question: “So, was there a time when you saw something that caused you some concern?” Huh?

#2.     Seeing the yellow panties of the lead defense attorney as she leans over to get documents is just wrong.

#1.     See the black panties of the lead defense attorney through her white pants is just wronger.