I missed the first hike at Carkeek Park for a mobile unconference two weeks ago. Twin Falls today marked the beginning of my 5th season with the LLS.

As most of you know, 4 miles out and back is nothing to write home about. What made the hike maybe a little impressive was that I was sore all over *before* I hiked. I made the mistake of restarting hot yoga on Thursday. Being the good yogi that I am, I went again yesterday. Boy, was my body sore this morning!

In every step I took I felt the tension in my thighs and bum, and my 30-pound pack and my very stiff back did not play nice with each other. It was just an unnecessarily miserable time for me to be out in the woods and rain. I shall never do anything rigorous in extreme condition(s) rrright before hike practice again!

For this season, I’m going to try to get one donation in everyday. If you can read this post, I’ll likely hit you up. If you were to decline my request, please let me know as soon as possible, so that I may ask somebody else and hopefully get the one donation in for that day.

If you’re feeling generous, head on over to http://c1.hk/25 to donate to support my fundraising effort. Remember, the LLS guarantees that 75% of your donation be spent on funding blood cancer research or patient care. So what’re you waiting for? Skip that coffee for a week and give LLS that $25!

By placing a barista like Rory “Rizzo” Baker in every store. 
Have you watched that credit report TV ad and wondered how you’re not just a number to the bureau? Are you ever tempted to switch your insurance to Nationwide because it is on your side? 
Businesses want to appeal to our craving for a sense of belonging. However, without a commitment to back their words with actions, most don’t do it well. I look at my credit report every month, and I’ve never felt like I’m more than a membership number that is worth $14.95 a month. Starbucks, with a store at just about every corner in Seattle, offers a familiar environment in which customers can feel at home. In fact, no matter where you are in the world, Starbucks stores look more or less the same. While the ambiance is relaxing, the service is still impersonal.
Starbucks baristas are usually friendly, but you know it is only because they are professional. I actually prefer to get my beverages at the little huts or indie cafés. Mostly I enjoy interacting with the people behind the counters, but I also like that these people often remember my beverage of choice after only a couple of visits. With the foot traffic at Starbucks, that level of personal touch might be too much to ask. My usual complaint, though, is that when a customer’s beverage is ready, the baristas call out his name like it’s nothing more than a delivery address.  
Not Rizzo!  
Rizzo had me at the cash register. Like other Starbucks baristas, he was smiley and perky. But somehow he also conveyed a genuine interest in his customers, which is a talent that can be acquired. I just knew even if he did not remember me the next day, he would have my name and my beverage down by the end of the week. Well, about twenty minutes after my initial order, when I returned to get a cup of water and a breakfast sandwich, Rizzo still remembered my name!  
In the one hour that I sat in that Starbucks, an old lady came in for coffee and had a seemingly personal conversation with Rizzo; and two groups of customers, who were on a first-name basis with Rizzo, walked over to chat with him after placing their orders with a different barista. 
I have no doubt Rizzo is responsible for the customer loyalty at his particular Starbucks. If there were a Rizzo in every Starbucks store, many little huts and indie cafés would go out of business. I, for one, would not go anywhere else for my beverages.  
Rizzo works at the Starbucks location at 874 Commonwealth Avenue. Pay him a visit if you’re in Boston!

In 2009, I was told a cure for blood cancer could be available in as few as five years. I wanted to survive blood cancer if I should ever get it, so I signed up to hike and raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I had a job at the time, and fundraising more or less consisted of bullying my coworkers into donating. That season, I was one of the top fundraisers at my event.

That was not a glorious time in my life. I had been in a rut for 18 months prior to my re-employment in late 2008, and my new job involved watching a great deal of pornography. Hiking and fundraising for the LLS was the only thing that allowed me to feel like a contributing member of society. It was tough for my body but good for my soul.

Looking back, I realize I was hooked on that torture from the get-go because my coaches and teammates were so phenomenal. They taught me that watching porn for a living was cool, not shameful. They helped me see that my quirkiness could be adorable to some. One of our teammates, Brenda, was a Leukemia survivor who had only finished treatment not five months before our hike training began! I was very fortunate to have met these people. As a team, we share many memorable moments, and the bond among teammates grew  stronger over time.

Last week, I signed up for my fourth season with the LLS. What that means is that between now and October 29, I am committed to strength training on Mondays, cardio training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, stair-climbing on Wednesdays, and hiking on Saturdays, rain or snow or shine.

I could raise money and awareness for other illnesses, but I don’t want to move on to a new illness without first eradicating the illness at hand. It’s like project management. Secondly, unlike Livestrong and Komen, the LLS does not receive much media attention. (I root for the little guys!) Lastly, but most importantly, my friend and teammate Todd, who is very sick with cancer in multiple vital organs and is undergoing chemotherapy, insists on hiking and raising money alongside us for a third time. If Todd can do it, what’s my excuse?

What’s your excuse?

Please support my effort by donating here. All donations over $25 are tax deductible. If your employer (e.g. Microsoft) has a matching gift program, please inform your personnel department of your donation and request for match.

Fundraising has gotten very challenging in this economic weather. Unfortunately blood cancer will not take a time-out while we are broke. So don’t wait till you have a connection to blood cancer to wish that you had cared enough to help find a cure. Donate now!

I am a frequent Expedia user. I don’t love it – I think it has much room for improvement – but I often book my travel through it because 1) I get cash back on my credit card for shopping with Expedia, and 2) earning many points at one place is far more useful to me than having a few points each with this airline, that hotel chain, and the other car rental company.

I like the concept of TripAssist, Expedia’s iPhone app. The real-time flight status updates via SMS, easy access to itineraries, and mobile-optimized environment where I can shop and book travel even when I am riding the bus are all very useful features to me. But I don’t have an iPhone, so I don’t have an iPhone.

I have been eagerly awaiting an Android version of TripAssist. When Expedia released its first Android app on May 10, I was among the first to download it. Between then and now, I have booked two trips through Expedia. Regrettably, neither of them was booked using the app.

The app is called Expedia Hotels, so all it does is let users shop for and book hotels. Since I almost always fly to my destinations, I have to book my flights on the Expedia website anyway. I have no reason to turn to the app for hotel reservations. Using the app to shop for a Portland hotel for when my parents visit next month, I noticed it did not allow me to make reservations for more than four adults. Unlike the website, it also did not allow me to narrow down to specific areas in Portland and star ratings. The other thing that really bothers me is that I cannot access TripAdvisor reviews from the app. Lastly, the app does not seem to sync with my Expedia account. I cannot be sure, because I have not followed through with the app, but I’d rather not risk it.

However, just because the app is no good for me doesn’t mean it is no good at all. Other than the petty complaints above, the app actually does quite well what it says it does. It is very straightforward. It finds my location almost immediately and displays hotels nearby. Many road warriors who travel extensively by car don’t arrange for lodging ahead of time, they stop whenever they are tired, and I imagine they could find the app useful.

Expedia Hotels is an excellent start. I’m looking forward to new features. But TripAssist it is not. Uninstalled.


While browsing the Amazon Appstore, I came across a limited-time offer for the Super WHY! new Android app for $0.99. Super WHY! is a show on PBS Kids that helps little kids understand phonics. While I think the show does a good job teaching children to be compassionate – for example, in one episode, the characters cheered for Humpty Dumpty so that he could come down from the wall on a slide – I don’t appreciate the way the show dismantles classic stories by converting perceived bads to perceived goods. I believe there is value in exposing children to the darker things in the real world.


The four mini-games in the app featuring the show’s characters are designed to train players in the areas of alphabet recognition, spelling, rhyming, and reading comprehension. The graphics are adorable and inviting, and the controls are straight-forward and intuitive. Players either tap on the screen to make a selection, or they follow the animation to learn to write. With each successful game, players are rewarded a “sticker” for their virtual sticker book, which they can “stick” on a variety of backgrounds to create amusing scenes, especially when the goat is involved.

In addition to being an educational tool for literacy skills, the app is a fun continuation of and complement to the show. The material is taken directly from the show so the app serves as a refresher. In particular, the reading comprehension mini-game refers to stories told in the show, so children must watch the show in order to win and earn stickers. What a great way to keep a young audience interested and engaged!

The app did not keep my attention for long. But for the short time that I played the games, I enjoyed the mini adrenaline rushes that came with the reassurance that I am smarter than a preschooler!






What is the call-to-action of this ad? Doing Kung Fu on your bed!?

I thought the code looked simple. But being the mobile enthusiast that I am, without thinking twice, I pulled out my phone to scan the code.

The reader could not recognize the code. I looked closer, and it said “Use this augmented reality code at dramaheights.com”.Velux2




I fired up the website on my phone and found that it was not at all optimized for mobile. It was written in Flash, and the site took forever to load. When it finally finished loading, I could not tell what was on it because the images were way too big for my phone screen. Worse yet, the site completely ignored my scrolling, so I could not even tell what the deal was with this AR campaign.

Taking the hint and moving on would have saved me the embarrassment. But no, I assumed the marketers at VELUX did not know what they were doing, and went through the exercise again on my laptop.

It turned out this was not a mobile campaign! I was supposed to scan the AR code with a webcam! To VELUX’s credit, it did not say “Use your smartphone to scan the augmented reality code”. But in this day and age, I could hardly be blamed for mistaking the cryptic black and white box for a tag that my phone can understand. (Or could I?)

To participate, you hold the ad in front of the webcam, and tilt it left and right to see a 3D scene at different angles. Like this:



There was no practical purpose to this ad, and it was a stretch to call it augmented reality. The ad merely served as a joystick of sorts to rotate the 3D scene – and an ineffective one at that. No reality was being augmented here. VELUX would have been better off using the ad to unlock the scene, and then let me move around with the mouse or keyboard.

The anticipation was where the excitement ended. I thought about how much the ad must have cost VELUX as well as how much the company  must mark up its products to afford such a campaign AND turn a profit, and the disappointment was enough for me to dismiss the brand.

It is clear that VELUX has a team of silly marketers. But it appears MCDM has one, too. It serves me right for shooting my tag reader at every ad I see before reading the fine print.


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