November 29, 2011

The Incredibly Limited Selection of Sirius Radio

With my wife's new Kia Soul came a complimentary 3-month trial to Sirius radio.

I was really excited. Planned on falling in love with it.

No longer would I be limited to the personal tastes of my local radio stations. In this world of limitless channels, I would finally be able to find ones that match my eclectic taste.

I couldn't. Sirius' channel selection is incredibly small.

2 Christian stations in total. Both worse (less hipster) than my local Chicago options.
2 Indie Rock stations in total. Both worse (less hipster) than my local Chicago options.

What's going on here? How can satellite radio be so limiting? Offer so little control and personalization?

What am I looking for that I was hoping Sirius would be?

Oh...thank you, Spotify.

November 28, 2011

A Local Story That Has Left Me Shaken

This weekend, my wife and I heard a tragic story about a local home health therapist that has left me wrecked.

A home health therapist is a physical therapist who travels to people's homes for their therapy sessions, when it would be difficult for the patient to get to the clinic on their own.

When she arrived at the house in a relatively dangerous part of Joliet, she was confused for someone else, shot multiple times, and killed.

At her funeral, her 1-year old child attempted to climb into the casket, in order to be with her mother.

It is the worst story I have ever heard. It left me sobbing and shaken. And I still don't know what to do with it.

My relatively amazing circumstances have left me forgetting that monstrous things still happen - just minutes from our house.

Lord, save us.

November 23, 2011

Kindle Fire: My 1 Week Review

One week into my new Kindle Fire, I thought I'd give a hasty review - in case it influences any of you looking to grab a tablet on Black Friday.

I bought (rationalized) the Kindle Fire for the interactive books. Specifically, the trailer for Alice in Wonderland won me over. I loved the idea of my daughter interacting with books in a way I never could. I was equally excited with the educational app possibilities. In short, I think the Kindle Fire is going to be her teacher in a few years, so I wanted to get a jump on it.

The problem is that, since the Kindle Fire is so new, publishers haven't created a whole lot of awesome interactive e-book content for the Kindle Fire yet. But that's sure to come....I hope?

Until then, it's a fun toy for me to play around with while my wife is using our laptop. Streaming video (Netflix and Hulu Plus) works and looks great on it.

I assumed I was going to be reading a lot of e-books on the Kindle Fire. After all, it's a Kindle. But, the Kindle Fire uses an LCD screen, rather than the new e-ink technology that more deeply mimics a book. I personally can't read large amounts of content on a PC. And in the same way, I can't read large amounts of content on my Kindle Fire. That's a bummer I wasn't expecting.

It's not intuitive like Apple products are. It took me a little while to figure out how everything worked. I was able to figure it out eventually. So, no long-term issues. But, it's not Apple easy.

It's a cheap and more portable laptop replacement for $199.

November 22, 2011

Short Attention Spans and the Evolution of Communication

"Kids simply don't have the attention span they used to."

But, I'm not sure we're entering a new world of A.D.D. Perhaps we simply have more entertaining options.

60 years ago, the most boring radio show in the world would beat out anything else going on. 30 years ago, the most boring TV show in the world would beat out anything else going on.

Choice has forced us to compete in the way we communicate. Choice has made television better. It has made movies better. It has made books better.

Yet, we teach the same way we did 60 years ago. And we preach the same way we did 60 years ago.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in all his eloquence, couldn't command my full and undivided attention for 40 straight minutes. Who do you think you are, trying to do it?

November 21, 2011

Irrelevant Interview Questions: Where Did You Go to College?

A few years back, when Bradley University's basketball program made the NCAA Sweet 16, my resume instantly became more interesting - for a few months at least.

And Boise State's recent football success has made my friend's degree from that institution much more valuable than it was back when he graduated.

More recently, Penn State graduates from 30 years ago have been instantly downgraded, now and forever.

So, with all that bias that has no bearing on your abilities as an individual, if I'm a hiring manager, I don't want to know where you went to school.

November 18, 2011

Haiti Doesn't Want Your Free T-Shirts

Today's reminder to stop doing good stuff, and start doing great stuff comes from an article sent in by loyal reader, Chris Stapel.

Every year, before the Super Bowl, the NFL prints 100,000 Super Bowl Champion hats and sweatshirts... for what will end up being the losing team.

Those clothes end up being worthless. So each year, the NFL donates these clothes they can't rightfully sell to World Vision for global distribution - to clothe the poor. And right now, some kid in Haiti is wearing a Chicago Bears: Super Bowl 2006 champion shirt.

Awesome, right?

Here's the problem. It costs World Vision, on average, 58 cents to ship and distribute each shirt to Haiti. For less than that, World Vision could actually purchase secondhand shirts in these same developing countries. World Vision could clothe the same people, while financially supporting (rather than damaging) these local economies - all for LESS money than they're currently spending giving out stuff for free.

November 17, 2011

Going for it on 4th Down vs. Fear of Being Fired

This past week, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith decided to go for it on 4th down and a foot, deep in his own territory, rather than punting the ball away to Drew Brees and the Saints.

They didn't make it. The Saints kicked a field goal to win the game. And ever since, Mike Smith has been widely ridiculed for "not playing the odds"... even though he absolutely did.

It wasn't the odds he went against. It was public opinion. And this public opinion has been shaped by coaches trying to avoid what Mike Smith is going through right now.

You see, if Smith had punted the ball, and still lost, he wouldn't have been blamed.

You don't get fired for getting beaten. You get fired for losing. You get fired for going for it, even when it makes complete objective sense, and you fail.

And so most coaches play by those rules. More than that, most of us play by those rules, thinking our job description is "try not to get fired." We never go for it on 4th down, to ensure we'll never get in trouble for failing.

But fear is a sucky motivator. And it's time for the wusses to get fired.

November 16, 2011

Where are the Modern Day Philosophers?

Why are we still studying Plato, Aristotle and Socrates?

We've had 2,000 years to build off where these guys brought us. So, where are their successors today? Even Freud (a "modern-day" philosopher) died more than 70 years ago?

Are the modern day Platos out there, and we're simply laughing at them - only to worship them after they're dead?

November 15, 2011

I Don't See the Leaves Laughing

I don't see the leaves laughing.
I don't see in poetry anymore.
Too much non-fiction, I guess.
Now, I see cause and effect.
Victims of their own circumstance.
The romantic language of Main St. vs. Wall Street gets lost on me.
I only see the truth.
But, there was truth in the leaves laughing.
Perhaps even more of it.

November 14, 2011

Entrepreneurs, You Didn't Miss Out on Facebook.

5 years ago, after witnessing Facebook's success, I remember a couple of my friends talking about how they were going to build their own social network.

How stupid does that sound now?

The entrepreneur in us wanted to mimic Facebook. But what the entrepreneur in us should be more excited about than ever is that Facebook has already been built. The foundation has already been laid for you. Everything and everyone is already here.

It's never been easier to build whatever you want. Just do it on Facebook.

November 09, 2011

Choosing Restaurants at Random

My friend recently recommended a restaurant in China Town. Excited and intrigued, I asked how she found it?

"Oh, a few years ago, we just decided to drive down to Chinatown and randomly picked a restaurant."

By sheer odds, this is probably the worst possible way to stumble across a great restaurant.

Now, back in high school, when driving around was a top recreational activity, my friend Kevin and I used to randomly drive in a direction - and half an hour later we would start looking around trying to find a place to eat.

We thought this tactic might help else discover hidden gems. In truth, we ended up looking for any place that sold pizza, and never hit any real winners.

Today, the high school versions of us might still drive the half hour, but then pull out their phone, go on and find the best rated local restaurant based on hundreds of local reviewers. Still get the adventure. But, you increase your odds of hitting a winner.


Terrible and even mediocre restaurants are going to die out. Because getting the optimistic drive-by customer isn't going to happen anywhere. Location next to the highway is going to matter less and less. Because now I can know there's a 5-star alternative just a few blocks away.

November 07, 2011

The Future of Education Will Be Personalized

Over the last few months of posts, I have hinted about what I believe to be an upcoming revolution in traditional education. Many of you have asked me about this - what I think the future of education looks like.

More than ever, I'm convinced the future of education will be personalized.

The current classroom environment forces teachers to teach to the middle - teaching at the level that engages the most kids possible. In this model, some kids get left behind, while some kids are bored into apathy.

What if the role of the teacher changed? What is the teacher presented a concept - let's say long division. Then, the class would be instructed to use their tablets (each kid would need one in my world) and the accompanying adaptive learning software that quizzes at the pace of the individual.

The students who "get it" right away would be challenged with more and more difficult problems. For the kids struggling with this new concept, the software would ease up until they start to get it - or alert the teacher that Billy could use some 1-on-1 direction during this personalized learning time.

The best and brightest would be challenged like they should be. The struggling students would get the additional 1-on-1 assistance they need.

Teaching is personal. Technology is getting us to a place where it can be.

November 04, 2011

Don't Start a Blog. Start Writing Sentences.

Out of all the blogs you read, this one is probably the shortest, right? That's intentional. Because:

1) Most blogs can't keep my interest past a single mouse scroll.
2) This blog is specifically designed to provoke thought (including my own), not to do your thinking for you.
3) This abbreviated format has kept me motivated to write 5 posts a week for more than 5 years.

The reason most people who want to blog, don't do so, is because they think they don't have enough to say.

And I wonder if our 3-page minimum requirements in school killed us for what writing really is. Because not once did this minimum requirement make your essay better. Merely longer.

So, don't blog with minimum requirements. Don't write a post. Write a sentence. The random you have on your mind right now. If after you write it down, you are inspired to explain, do so. But, don't feel you have to. Sometimes, it just makes it worse.

November 03, 2011

We've Been Sleeping on Metal the Past 70 Years

Last week I walked into a mattress store.

Our 6-year old innerspring was waking us up with back pain each morning, and the mattress store owner informed me that "memory foam" mattresses now make up 80% of his sales. I used to write for Sealy at my old ad agency, and even I wasn't aware of how giant this shift to memory foam had recently become.

Apparently, after 70 years of making beds out of metal, we decided there might be a more comfortable option. 

1 week into my new memory foam mattress, I'm convinced we were right. What's wrong with us? What else are we currently doing for no other reason than that's the way we've always done it? What's the next big thing we're going to look back at and wonder what we were possibly thinking over the last 30 years?*

*Answer: It's the food we eat.

November 02, 2011

I Am a Music Sexist

Are you a music sexist? Have you ever even thought about it?

I just realized that 95% of the bands I listen to have a male vocalist. Don't get me wrong, I could listen to Regina Spektor and Adele all day long.

But, odds are, if I'm listening to it, a dude's singing it. And I'm not sure how awful that makes me.

November 01, 2011

Famous for Pornography

Yesterday, when the tragic news of Kim Kardashian's divorce hit our office, it didn't take long before the jokes started flying. And then, one individual said, "How did she become famous in the first place?"

I sat back, waiting for someone else to remind the room of the embarrassing fact. One individual said, "I'm not sure." Another, "I think she's a singer."

My jaw dropped.

They didn't know?!? This girl gets famous for a sex tape, and can get the majority of the world to forget that's how she became famous? It's simply incredible! It's baffling!

So, I went home and told my wife the story, and she wasn't familiar with Kim's salacious past, either. In fact, she said, "I just thought she became famous for the same reason Paris Hilton did."

My jaw dropped harder.

These women are PR geniuses. I've never seen anything like it. Maybe I can turn a string of robberies into the starting fame I need to launch my music career? Because apparently, no one will remember the former?

A Christian Approach To The End Of Life

 Note: This post has been contributed. Unsplash - CC0 License Talking about the end of life isn’t a popular topic. But it is something that ...