The Hot Iron

A journal on business, technology and occasional diversions by Mike Maddaloni

Monday, November 17, 2014

What I Learned From Writing What I Learned This Past Year

photo of the last page of The Giving Tree

Earlier this year I decided to write weekly posts here at The Hot Iron about what I learned over the past 7 days. Over 8 months I wrote 32 posts sharing numerous things that I learned. I wrote the last one on August 29, 2014, which will be my last in this series.

Fun for me while it lasted

The catalyst for this topic thread was simple - I had too many things I learned and/or wanted to write about but not enough time to write the posts. As much as I would like to simply “bang out” my thoughts on the keyboard, for me the writing process is more elaborate than that, from the thought on the topic to writing, to editing, to an accompanying photo… it takes me time. That being said, writing is something I enjoy and is a great creative outlet for me.

Writing posts that were more of a collection of nuggets of information was a good idea at first and something that interested me. I was also hoping to write single-topic pieces as well. Over time though the thrill waned and then it got to where I was not writing one every week, then the most recent gap of a couple of months. As for those single-topic pieces, they were few and far between.

Back to where it began

I've decided to retire this thread and return to writing as I gave before - posts on single topics on business and technology and other occasional diversions. For those of you who are my loyal readers I thank you and I hope that you'll enjoy this change as well. As always, I will never fully promise any number of posts, but am hoping to at least write one a week.

Still learning

As I still get disappointed when a day goes by when I don't learn something, I am still logging those thoughts and will be sharing them on my Twitter account – you can follow me there at @thehotiron. Of course there may be more diversions than in the blog itself, as well as more conversations and other thoughts but I still share all the business and tech news with my unbiased opinion as much as possible.

I hope you won’t miss my “learned” posts – or will you? Please let me know either way in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 11/17/14 at 12:15 AM
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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Quick Poll – What Is The Work You Do Really To You?

Is the work you do a vocation, career or simply a job?

This is the question I am asking in this quick poll. As I am reading the book 48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal by Dan Miller, this question is the activity of day 6 of the 48, where one is supposed to discuss this with 2 people about what they do for work and if it is a vocation or their calling, part of the progression of their career path or if it is merely a job where they are collecting a paycheck.

I have decided to go wide with this query and am asking all readers of this post to answer this poll. In addition, I am interested in the discussion of why you made your selection and welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post. As the comments are moderated, you may respond anonymously, and providing you are not spamming the comments with ads for knock-off merchandise, I will post them.

Thank you in advance, and I am eager to see your votes as well as your comments as to if what you do for work is a vocation, career or job.

Please make your selection below - if you cannot see the poll question please answer the poll here.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 11/02/14 at 11:15 PM
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Takeaways From The Book Who Moved My Cheese?

photo of What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

I was aware of the book Who Moved My Cheese? for some time, yet I had no idea what the story was about. When I found the book after moving, I decided to take it and give it a read. It was a short book yet it was packed with a powerful message to me.

Written by Dr. Spencer Johnson, the co-author of The One Minute Manager (yet another book I have not read, but I digress) Who Moved My Cheese? is a story of people telling the story and discussing “who moved my cheese?” and what they took away from it. When you read the story it's hard not to put yourself into the characters of the story, whether it’s those who are hearing the story or those who are in the story “who moved my cheese?” Interestingly, the discussion of the story takes place in Chicago.

After putting down the book, my takeaways were very obvious to me.

  • Everything is in constant change – whether we realize it or not, things are always changing. This may be obvious for some things but for many things in our lives it probably isn't as obvious as others, yet we need to be aware of all change.
  • Laugh at yourself – This is something I have always felt that I was really good at, but it's something that when you go down a certain path you may forget to do. By stepping back and taking yourself out of the situation, it will help you see things much clearer and allow you the opportunity to laugh at it a little bit.
  • Be the “haw” – The character “Haw” in the story Who Moved My Cheese? is the hero, the one who decided to move on when things were bad. His line in the story about what you would do if you weren't afraid is something to take to heart.
  • It's never too late to change – Even if things are very bad and you don't think there's an opportunity to change, there is a choice to make to remain where you are or get out and move on.

Granted this isn't the only book that has ever been written about picking up and moving on, but I think it tells it in a way that it realizes the struggles people have with just doing that and spells it out in a way that makes it easier for you to relate to it.

At 96 pages, Who Moved My Cheese? is an extremely quick read and I read it in about an hour. Though the book was originally published in 1998, it is a timeless story and very relevant today for what I'm doing and what other people I know are doing. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book. As I am done reading it, if you would like my copy please let me know and I'll share it with you.

I welcome your thoughts on the book Who Moved My Cheese? in the comments of this post. Was it a good story for you, or a silly read, or something else?


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 10/22/14 at 11:36 AM
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Friday, October 10, 2014

The Work Project I Never Politically Worked On

Ah, company politics. They can be anything from mildly amusing to wrenchingly painful. In any case, they are at a minimum something you shake your head at. Unfortunately there are politics of some form in every work place and it really depends on the people involved as to how bad the politics can be.

The following story is one of company politics that to this day I still shake my head and laugh at. However at the time I admit I was pretty pissed off about it. It is a true story – one that I went through myself about a dozen years ago. The names of people in the company of all been changed to protect the innocent or feeble.

I was working in internal IT for a software company supporting the software and hardware for its public Web site and Intranet. Along came a major project where the company was going to implement PeopleSoft, an enterprise resource management or ERM system. As a result, everyone in IT was supposed to be working on the PeopleSoft project and not on anything else, including the work I was doing on our Web site and Intranet. Of course reality is always something different, as there was nobody else to technically support either of those projects, and I continued to support both.

One day I got a call about a major project the company was undertaking. It was going to go through a significant rebranding effort, keeping the same logo but rebranding all products and services including a new Web site. Although we had plenty of technical people in the company, I was the person to work on the new Web site as I knew it best, from the marketing team to the infrastructure to code behind it. The call had come from the marketing manager whom I had worked with since I've been there supporting the Web site. I then told her what the new “situation” was in IT, where I was not supposed to be supporting the current Web site, let alone build a new one. Needless to say this didn't make any sense to her, but she understood well how the company politics was, especially in IT.

Next up for her was to raise the “situation” up through her management, which then brought it up to the IT management and then came back down to me. I got a call from my manager who told me that after all I was supposed to work on the new Web site. But there was only one stipulation: I wasn't politically supposed to be working on this project therefore I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about it. So technically I was wasn’t working on the project, even though it was going to take most all of my time for the next several months.

Makes perfect sense right? I didn't think so.

Despite the insanity of the “situation” I had a job to do. A lot of work went into building the Web site, but it was something enjoyed doing very much and it didn't seem like a job at all. I was working very closely with our marketing manager, where I was located in Boston and she was in Vermont. Throughout the entire project we never actually saw each other, but despite that we were extremely successful at what we built.

In addition to building the Web site, I was also responsible for registering and acquiring new domain names for our rebranded products and services. As this was a publicly traded company, the rebranding was very secretive and very few people knew what the new product names were to be. But I was one of them. So that's a lot of faith and confidence in the guy that's not officially working on the project.

Overall the project was a success and we launched the new Web site on the day the company launched the rebranding. A lot of hard work and long hours went into it, and where we were very relieved when it was over, there was a lot of pride in the work we did. About a week after the rebranding, an email came out from the president of the company thanking individually all the people who worked on the rebranding. That is, all except for me. Of course this made complete sense because the president wasn't told I worked on the project because for political reasons I wasn't working on the project as nobody from IT was supposed to be working on anything else but the PeopleSoft project.

No sooner did the email come out from the president, I got a call from the marketing manager who was completely shocked that I was left off the list. I have to admit I was slightly irate I didn't get official recognition, but I knew the “situation” and took it for what it was. At least my immediate colleagues knew I worked on the project and I got kudos from them. Where I did not get credit from the president, I knew what I did and was just as proud as I was before the email came out.

Several weeks later we had an all-hands meeting for the IT organization. As I wasn't really in the mood for going to listen to this meeting in person, I decided just to dial into it from my desk. At the conclusion of the meeting the chief information officer, or CIO, brought up the rebranding project and even singled me out for the work that I did on it. What? Public recognition from the guy who had decided I technically didn't work on the project and made sure that I didn't get credit for it from the president of the company? Needless to say I was mildly irate and may have even made a gesture at the phone as I was listening to this. Interestingly, the CIO himself never personally thanked me for the work that I did on the Web site, and knowing how he operated even his public acknowledgment was very halfhearted.

It's one thing going into a consulting project or a contract knowing that for proprietary reasons you can't reference you worked on a project. When it comes to political reasons for not working on a project, they typically make absolutely no sense and are more to cover for someone than anything else. This was the case here, in a company with plenty of resources and a “leader” who would not acknowledge a significant company effort in order to keep to his marching orders that all-hands would be working on the ERM initiative. Of course by that statement alone there is no leadership shown.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How would you have reacted if it was you? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 10/10/14 at 08:52 PM
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Top 10 Reasons Why Fall Is The Best Season

photo of fall trees in Glen Mills, PA

Happy Fall! Or at least the first weekend of it.

Fall, also known as Autumn, is my favorite season. Why? Here’s my top 10 reasons.

10. Summer is wicked overrated. There is too much pressure to have your fun and vacation in the summer, when there is just as much to and plenty of time to do it in the fall.

9. Everything is cheaper in the fall, from hotel rooms to gas, as demand is higher in the summer due to the reason above. For what it would cost you to do what you do in the summer, you can do more – and more of it – for less in the fall.

8. It’s a lot cooler in the fall than in the summer. Walking from your front door to the car won’t cause you to sweat profusely. It’s a great season to get outside and have a nice cool breeze going for you.

7. Fall colors are amazing. Growing up in New England, for me a short drive to the shopping mall gave me an amazing view of some of the best foliage in the world. Not to forget the fall colors you wear are equally striking.

6. Crunching leaves make for a great sound.

5. Fall is all about heartier foods. The meats and vegetables, and the soups and stews and meals they make, warm on the inside and are a great compliment to the weather. Fall even has its own fruit, the pumpkin (yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable).

4. Halloween comes at almost the halfway point of the fall, and is a great celebration of fun and mischief for people of all ages. Plus the annual visit to the pumpkin farm prepares you for the night of bewitching.

3. Fall is when you go back to school. Where some kids like that and others don’t, most parents agree and like it.

2. When you change your clocks at the end of Daylight Savings Time in the fall, you get back that hour you lost in the spring.

1. It’s football season – the American kind! From playgrounds to the pros and everywhere in between, it’s the time to cheer for your gridiron champions, not to mention the tailgating parties that go along with it.

It was somewhat tough to choose what order to put some of these in, as they all contribute greatly to my favorite time of the year.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree on my favorite season? Or do you have other reasons to love fall? Please share your thoughts in the comments to this post,


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 09/26/14 at 08:21 PM
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Changed My Opinion On Moving

photo of moving boxesChange can often be a very good thing. But when that change comes with moving – moving yourself and all of your stuff can be a burden and sometimes unbearable. The idea of packing up all your things, moving them to a new place then unpacking them, figuring out what you want to keep, what you want to get rid of and then buying new things to supplement them that work better in the new place… it is something that once it is all over it is fulfilling but during the process itself it can be arduous.

As I have hinted here in some of my recent posts at The Hot Iron, my family recently moved. We are not too far from where we lived before, but still a significant distance and significant effort involved in the process. In the past, I used to say that traumatic experience of moving comes only second to the death of a family member. As extreme of thought that that is, it was something I always believed in. But with this last move my opinion has changed.

As I write this we have completed our move, but there are still a TON – and I mean a TON – of boxes to unpack and things to put away or get rid of. As much as I'm not looking forward to that whole process, I know that going through it all is going to be something that I'm going to enjoy because it will allow me to take a fresh look at things I haven't looked at in awful long time. You see, the last time that I move over 10 years ago so I've been in the same place for 10 years accumulating stuff along with the stuff that never unpacked from our last move. That is something that I'm hoping to change with this move where as we go through things, box by box, analyzing and determining what is the best course of action to do for these things. So far I've gotten rid of a lot of things and consolidated a lot of things and I'm enjoying actually the process of going through everything and trying to simplify my life.

This is a type a change I feel is good for me now and is something I am looking forward to. It will also be a big part of my goal to simplify my life this year. Now let's see how long it takes to unpack and get down to the very last box.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 09/11/14 at 08:29 PM
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 29 2014

photo of Friendly’s Black Raspberry ice cream

At an early hour with a full cup of coffee…

  • While browsing the aisles at the local Jewel supermarket, something caught my eye, and something I was not expecting to find in the Midwest – Friendly’s ice cream. Friendly’s is a predominately East-coast chain of restaurants which is headquartered near where I grew up. As I looked through the flavors, one caught my eye – black raspberry. Now note this is black raspberry ice cream and not sherbet – out East black raspberry ice cream is very common, but I have yet to see it in Chicagoland or Wisconsin. So of course I got some and had a small trip down memory lane. Now if they only had maple walnut, then I would have cried.
  • Speaking of crying, I did shed a few tears of joy and Dad pride as my oldest daughter rode her bike with 2 wheels and without training wheels for the first time this week. As we are now closer to a park that is kid-friendly, she has simply been able to ride her bike more, and was determined to do it.
  • Now that the Ventra system is the only way to pay for transit rides in Chicago, I am noticing more and more usability issues with it. One thing that bugs me is the auto-replenishment of your account, where you can enter credit card numbers online, and choose 1 to do the replenish. With the old Chicago Card system, it would send an email alert when it replenished your account, or if it was unable to. The new Ventra site does not do that, so the time you find out if your account is at zero is when trying to board a train or bus, or more likely a bus as there won’t be a replenishment kiosk there. I should probably keep a running list of the things I find for a separate blog post on it.
  • An esteemed colleague shared with me information about the Kuando Busylight, a device which you attach to your computer monitor and changes colors when you are on the phone or when you set your status to “busy” so people won’t disturb you in the office place. Where the idea is clever, in my opinion I see this more of a Band-Aid approach to the failings of the modern office setup… something else I could probably write a whole blog post on.
  • I received a “video bill” from Comcast this week. It used my first name, and told me my balance for the services I have and the due date. I thought this was extremely clever not to mention informative, even for a techie person like myself. The only problem with it? I cannot share or embed the video! The video is done using a service from a company called SundaySky. Not having this feature is something that could really make this service successful. Now I wonder if I will get a video bill every month?
  • If a vendor had a hard time getting to you and parking once, they will most likely do it again, so don’t even bother giving them a second chance.
  • This week I was browsing a few stores looking for a “temporary table” – something I could use for a short period of time before I bought (and first found) a permanent, nice table to use. As I looked around a thought came into my head from the wayback machine – you don’t find cardboard furniture anymore in stores. Back in the 70’s and 80’s I remember you could get cardboard tables or shelving or other furniture made from cardboard. So of course I looked online and I found vendors there. Granted today we have particle board furniture from IKEA, but there’s something about lighter, collapsible furniture that meets the need.
  • I am still offering my loft condo in the Chicago Loop for rent. The price has been reduced – act now!
  • Another esteemed colleague shared with me this timelapse video of 1,000 years of European borders changes. It is fascinating to watch, and the music is so appropriate to it. I have embedded it below or follow the previous link to watch it on YouTube.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/30/14 at 06:07 AM
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 22 2014

photo of lights on the ceiling of The Maxwell in Chicago

Armed with a to-do list, and an item named “write blog post” has helped me get this relatively on-time out the door!

  • I visited “The Maxwell” this week. It is a retail complex in Chicago’s South Loop, whose name comes from the now-gone nearby Maxwell Street retail area. It combines street-level stores, upper level stores accessible through a lobby and parking. The lobby is nothing to look at, but its ceiling is, and is pictured here.
  • Did you know I am renting my Chicago Loop loft condo?
  • I had keys made this week at that big-box orange-logoed hardware chain. They had this machine that scanned the keys then cut them. Impressive, only that one of my keys did not work in one door. Then I went to the local Ace hardware store who had one of the “old-fashioned” key cutters where you manually trace the key to make a duplicate, and the key worked perfectly.
  • I had an extremely positive experience with Comcast customer service this past week, and an incredibly painful experience with their technical support a few days later.
  • The more I learn about mobile app development, the more I realize people don’t really know what their app is doing, such as what and when it is accessing something either on your device or over the Internet.
  • I have heard about IRS form 990, which a non-profit must file with its taxes. However, I have not ever really looked at one at depth or compared them against other organizations. I did so this week, for the group Barrel of Monkeys whose Board I have joined, as well as for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Just create an account at GuideStar and look away!
  • Strep – it’s not just for your throat, and you can get strep in your nose and other body parts I won’t mention.
  • You can stain concrete. It is similar to staining wood, in that you are enhancing the appearance of the texture.
  • My 10+ year old grocery cart finally came to an untimely collapse when one of the wheels snapped off and I wasn’t able to repair it. I am honestly surprised it lasted that long.
  • Amazon has a new feature called Amazon Smile where a non-profit organization you choose can earn a percentage of your purchases when you use the specific URL smile.amazon.com. It is unclear if the charity can earn money when you use the Amazon mobile app. I chose the Omayra Amaya Flamenco Dance Company Inc. to receive whatever pennies they can earn from my purchases. Omayra was a long-time client of my Web consulting business and she is an amazing dancer and performer. Check out her Web site and look for videos of her online to see, and choose her dance company to earn whatever you can send their way.
  • This blog was down for about 8 hours this past week – did you notice?
  • After my ordeal with Comcast I hooked up a new wireless router, a Cisco/Linksys EA3500. When I went to run the setup, I noticed something called “Smart Wi-Fi” which immediately caused me to shudder – this wasn’t the typical, very techie setup and router administration I was used to. First off, it wanted me to create an account to remotely administer my router. Really? Then, the setup failed, which never – ever – previously happened to me. After a little searching, I found similar people lamenting to this, and a solution to revert to the traditional, previous router administration Web interface. Not surprising, everything worked as expected.
  • Did I mention I am renting my loft condo in the Chicago Loop? Actually, I did blog about renting my condo.
  • This week someone closed an email with “be good to yourself!!!” This took me aback. First, this is nothing I have ever gotten in writing from someone. As I thought more about it, I was trying to think of the last time anyone ever said it to me. Then it dawned on me, it did happen, and way back in the day, by people I have never met in person. Yes, I am referring to the song Be Good To Yourself by Journey. Watch it on this link to YouTube or see it embedded below, and either way take a trip back in time… and be good to yourself!!!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/23/14 at 11:26 AM
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chicago Loop Loft Condo For Rent As Of September 1

photo of 5 North Wabash Avenue Suite 1204 Chicago Loop Loft Condo For Rent

Available September 1, 2014 is a unique loft-style, 1 bedroom and a den condo for rent in the Chicago Loop with a storage unit on the same floor. This rental features high ceilings, modern kitchen, bath, Elfa shelving system in both of the walk-in bedroom and front closets, washer/dryer in unit, and a 6x9 storage unit perfect for storing bikes.

This rental condo is located at the corner of Wabash & Madison, at "L" stop for Brown, Orange, Green and Pink lines and main stop for CTA buses, and is around the corner from Millennium Park and short walk to Lake, Museums, shopping, dining and services. Heat, cooking gas and basic TV are included, and the tenant plays electric. Discounted parking for extra available at Grant Park North garage under Millennium Park.

For more information and photos, visit the Web site for this Chicago Loop loft condo at FiveNorthWabash.com. To schedule a showing, contact Ryan Newberry L'Heureux.

photo of 5 North Wabash Avenue Suite 1204 Chicago Loop Loft Condo For Rent Web site


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/21/14 at 09:30 PM
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Friday, August 15, 2014

What I Learned This Week For August 8 and 15 2014

photo of a flyer for an Urgent Divorce Auction

As the last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind for me, it’s only fitting I post them together, on a Friday no less and on time for the second week. Yes, on time!

  • This flyer that came in my mailbox piqued my interest. Not only is it a divorce auction – which means there is such a dispute among assets that they have to be sold this way – but it is an urgent one as well. Why urgent?
  • This past week I was formally elected to the board of directors of Barrel of Monkeys, a Chicago non-profit organization that teaches inner-city kids creative writing skills, then takes what they write and creates sketch comedy which is not only performed for the kids themselves but in a weekly show called, That’s Weird Grandma. It is an amazing organization and I am thrilled to be involved. How I got involved with them was through a LinkedIn search for local people who were interested in being on a board, which was only heightened by my good friend Linsey being one of the performing company members. You will be hearing more about BOM in future installments I promise you!
  • My word for 2 weeks ago was lodgment. I was asked if this word was appropriate in describing when a mobile app was available in the app store. I admit I guessed the etymology of it, but still looked it up. I recommended simply saying it was available. Apparently lodgment is the preferred term in Australia.
  • My word for this week was steganography. It is the concealment of a message within something else, or hiding something in plain sight. There are a lot of ways to do it, and it is a fascinating concept, and one which many of us – including myself – may have done at some point without even realizing it.
  • Now that I am no longer building eCommerce sites with the technology, Miva Merchant is holding their next MivaCon conference in Chicago in September. As I would once again choose Miva Merchant if I were to build an eCommerce site, and it’s like fifty dollars to attend, I may still go. It would be an opportunity to meet some of the people I have talked with over the years, and I am sure I could score some cool schwag in the process.
  • As I got a new work PC I had to once again lookup how to send a Word document as an email message body within Word.
  • I found out a friend is a Dad by a random comment he mentioned on his podcast. Granted we aren’t all that close, but it was nice to hear. Got a picture of the little bundle of joy, and am overdue in replying to him. Why didn’t I hear? As much as my friend is on social media, he didn’t want to do that to his kid without their permission… something I do as well.
  • The movie The Wizard of Oz premiered 75 years ago. It seems like only yesterday that the Munchkins were causing me nightmares as a child after watching it on a black and white TV no less.
  • Tried the new Sofritas vegetarian option at Chipotle this week in a burrito, and I will definitely get it the next time.
  • This week’s video is far from one I have learned in the past few weeks. It is a Sesame Street video about brushing your teeth featuring Elmo and several celebrities. Somehow we found this, and the song is long enough for them to fully brush their teeth as recommended by dentists. Sometimes it takes the start of the video to get the kids into the bathroom and loading up their brushes. Though not new to me, perhaps it is something you can learn for this week as well.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/15/14 at 10:44 PM
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The Hot Iron strives to present unique content and perspective on business, technology and other topics by Mike Maddaloni, a Web and business strategist based in Chicago.

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