Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fairfax County Special Collections - super easy

And a simple online scheduling interface.

Put in your address, then four checkboxes for
  • freon-containing appliances
  • metal appliances (non-freon)
  • bulk material
  • brush/limbs
Boom, done.

Submitted today in late afternoon, scheduled for pickup tomorrow (Friday).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Raw sewage in DC due to rain

"During heavy rains, water that hits impervious surfaces such as buildings, roads and parking lots flows into city drains. The city's sewer system is unable to handle the excess water and ends up overflowing, releasing more than 1 billion gallons of raw sewage into surrounding rivers each year, he said." -

From a Federal Times article that covers the Department of Interiors green roof program. It cost $228,000 to cover a portion of the 100,000 square foot roof.

I know this building well, I park outside of it a lot when I'm in DC for softball games.
The other interesting reference in the article is "integrated photovoltaic roof membranes" which are very similar to shingling material that you can put on your roof and prevents water from getting in while also obviously acting as a photovoltaic (PV) system. Very nice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why do companies abuse their RSS feeds?

The RSS feed DUMP for whatever reason is increasingly ubiquitous with corporate websites:

Why does IDEO dump 67 items into their feed at one time? Why is it so prevalent with universities for that matter?

This is HORRIFIC PR. You don't want to flood the market with 27 different items all at the same time, your own content is fighting itself. You need to slow it down, you need to release it in a timely and progressive manner. You need to have a reason to post these items. If nothing else, post 4 a day for two weeks, with each item coming in three hour increments.

My assumption is some schlub in the company is responsible for this, and/or some efficiency expert decided this is best done as a "batch process". FAIL. Don't handle your company's PR and public face as a time wasting event. Treat it, and your subscribers, with respect.

Plus if your goal is to get people to read stuff, they can't handle 67 items all at once.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gmail needs to let me archive labels

Why can't I archive mail labels? I don't need many of the one's I have (leftover from my MBA). They were relevant on a daily basis once, but now I'm using some less and less. I still want the labels around for search purposes, but not right up front.

To "fix" this I have prefaced non-primary labels with the letter "z" so they are at the bottom of the list. This makes them less cumbersome. But still pushed the extra Gmail Labs features further below (quick schedule overview, plus docs).

They should also let you re-order the labels either how the user wants, or at least based on alphabetical or frequency of usage.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Applying Merger and Acquisition lessons to a growing small business

The MIT Sloan Management Review in the Fall of 2008 identified six lessons from studying M&A activity:
  1. Reduce role ambiguity - You may have several managers with previously overlapping duties, clear up who does what. This helps reduce attrition.
  2. Due diligence is a must - Just as two M&A firms must understand their counter party, a growing business must perform the necessary due diligence on its current and future leaders. Choices must be conscientiously made as to who will lead the organization. It is especially important to keep the future of the growing business in mind, making sure you have a pipeline of potential future leaders, and enough people who can grow with the firm (from managing 5 to 35 people, as an example).
  3. Be specific about how things are done - "That's not how we do things here" is a signal that you have a company culture
  4. Don't tolerate bad behavior - cliques, information asymmetries and sabotage of decision making are the hallmarks of bad behavior and looming problems. Don't tolerate when you are small, don't tolerate it as you grow either.
  5. Practice patience - the inner workings of your company are maturing, it will take time to learn who is good at what, etc.
  6. Measure and celebrate your growth - If you don't measure it, you don't know how you are performing. And if you don't make successes publicly known and celebrated, they aren't shared and don't become a part of your culture.
All in all I think they are pretty useful. GE has one of the absolute best M&A methodologies I've ever seen. There are a wealth of academic items studying and elaborating it. Easily portable to another organization as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fwd: Your Windows Live and MSN Communication Preference Settings

Dear Microsoft,

There's a REASON my settings don't allow you to send my PR'd spam from you. I don't want it.

Please continue NOT sending me your swill. I'm sad to admit I have a Hotmail account in this day and age. But back in 1997, it was pretty hip.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Windows Live Team <>
Date: Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 12:06 PM
Subject: Your Windows Live and MSN Communication Preference Settings
To: me

Dear Windows Live User,

We are contacting you regarding your communication preference settings for Windows Live and MSN.

Currently, your settings do not allow Microsoft to send you promotional information or survey invitations about Windows Live and MSN. We would like to communicate important product updates to you, so if you would like to change your settings, please visit your account profile here to change your preferences.

The Windows Live Team

Note: You can also change your Account settings by going to your browser and typing in: After logging-in to your account, look for 'Additional options' and click 'Marketing preferences'. Then uncheck the top preference box and click 'Save'.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dear prospective employee, thanks but no thanks

What a hard answer to give people, but being honest is definitely the best policy in this case.

Background: I attend a "recruiting mixer" last night for the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business. I got my MBA from then in 2007.

The event was very well put together. My only critique would be that they weren't 100% specific with the location of the event. It was on the concourse level of the Ronald Reagan Trade building (where I took classes). But since I graduated they opened up a much nicer location (I harken back to days of electric plugs duct taped to the carpet). So it was a bit confusing, and I thankfully bumped into a handful of alums and we helped each other out.

I also ran into two former classmates, which was great. One has had a baby, which was exciting news. The other left pharma sales to join Booz Allen, a great move by her I think.

The set up were tall tables where we had company placards, and just enough room for business cards and flyers. I took around 16 resumes in just over an hour and a half, so approximately 6 minutes per person.

Of the 16, I'd say we have strong chances with 3-4 of them, and looser chances with another 3-4. If even just one of those is a hire, then it is a smashing success.

But the most challenging part of the evening was telling people "No". Interestingly, Smith did a great job of providing the prospective employee's with a cheatsheet on each company, what they have needs for, etc. Some students didn't seem to work from that though. I wish the cheatsheet made it clear we are looking for US citizens only though, because that could have saved some time on both ends. Also, if it says my company isn't looking for interns, why ask? I guess you are being proactive, which is great and all. But there's a reason we're listed as not having an internship program - we don't. And we're not looking for an intern.

A tip to prospective employees - If a company says you have to be a US citizen, and you aren't, just accept it and move on. Don't recommend alternatives. Don't recommend a three week trial period. That might work with other companies, but our hands are tied on the citizenship issue.

My biggest regret is that I met two active military members and when we finished chatting they moved on before I got to say "Thanks for your service."

So, thanks for your service. I work for a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business; we take that seriously and greatly appreciate the sacrifices of the men and women who help keep us safe.

Fwd: GrandCentral is becoming Google Voice

Finally rolling out Google Voice -

Hello GrandCentral User,

We are happy to announce that GrandCentral has been upgraded and is relaunching as Google Voice. While not yet open to the public, we wanted to give you, our GrandCentral users, the first opportunity to start using Google Voice.

In addition to the GrandCentral features you already know, we've added voicemail transcription, SMS support, conference calling, Goog411, enhanced spam protection and low-priced international calling. We have also integrated GrandCentral with your Google Account and your Google Contacts list.

To upgrade your account to Google Voice, just log in to your GrandCentral account and follow the directions at the top of your inbox. Upon upgrading, your GrandCentral number, PIN, and forwarding phones will be moved to Google Voice.

Note that since Google Voice uses the Google address book, your GrandCentral contacts will not be imported automatically. You can import your GrandCentral address book with these instructions. You will also need to recreate any individual/group settings and greetings.

After you upgrade, all your new voicemails will be accessible at Google Voice, while all prior messages will remain available at GrandCentral.

Thanks for being a great GrandCentral user and we hope you enjoy Google Voice!


Craig, Vincent, and the Google Voice team

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fun with home improvement, kitchen and master bath

Two projects in one post: recaulking the master bathroom and putting in caulk in the kitchen for the backsplash.

The kitchen previously didn't have caulk sealing the back splash, so I put in a clear silicon caulk bead to seal that area off. The pre-pictures, which I don't have, would have shown that the back splash bead board was getting messy in a few areas where it was getting a lot of water. I sanded that clean, repainted the entire back splash and then sealed off the gap between the counter top / back splash and bead board.

I found with the bead board that you can use any of the smaller sized rollers to get 98% of the work done, but you'll want to use a brush to get paint in the cracks or else they'll look funky.

The master bathroom (MBA) was a challenge for getting the old caulk off. They put an extremely thin bead of caulk on, so I was constantly scraping at the grout. My knuckles took the brunt of the punishment for that. Once I got the old caulk scraped out as best as I could, I cleaned it twice to make sure there were no "ickeys" left, then prepped the surface with painter's tape.

I once previously put caulk down in a kitchen without tape, which I'll never do again. The tape obviously helps produce an extremely clean line, and all the little excess build ups of caulk don't end up on your walls either.

Key to removing the old caulk was working all the angles with the scraping tool (they make special plastic tools for this, use them, they are worth every cent). Don't use a screwdriver or exacto knife, you'll do damage to the tub or tile.

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