Second Tree Blog

Semi-regularly updated musings from the Tim, Julie, Benton, Carson, and Alana Wilsons.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Installment No. 1: Fun Facts About Ohio

Hey -- if we're going to move there, I probably ought to arm myself with anecdotes. 'tis so easy with the Internet:
  1. There are lots of claims that Cleveland boasted the first traffic signal in the United States, which seemed interesting, since I spent 2.5 years working for Automatic Signal/Eagle Signal (acquired by Siemens after I started there and renamed Eagle Traffic Control Systems, a Business Unit of Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc...and renamed ITS Siemens several years after I left and after another traffic-related Siemens acquisition); apparently...this claim to fame is a myth, unfortunately
  2. A fun one that I ran into when interviewing in Columbus was "50% of the United States population lives within a 500 mile radius of Columbus." That sounds suspiciously like, "Columbus can get to lots of big cities...but you have to go a ways to do so!"
  3. Akron (Julie's hometown) was the first city to use police cars; let's run with "Akron" for a bit:
    - Home of the All American Soap Box Derby
    - The city where Alcoholics Anonymous was founded
    - The "meth capital of the US, with over 200 busts 'last' year" (I don't know when that was written -- meth is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in the rural areas surrounding Austin, actually)
  4. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was founded in Columbus (cool!)
  5. Birthplace of SEVEN U.S. presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding; if memory serves, Harding is generally considered the worst President in U.S. history (by golly! Maybe THAT'S what Dubya is shooting for with his legacy?!); and, two of the four Presidents who were assassinated are on this list (McKinley and Garfield)

I wasn't really starting out to make this a list of dubious distinctions. I'll try to correct that with future installments. I mean, heck, we're moving from Texas of all places, which has GOT to top most lists of dubious distinctions (Dubya, Jasper, the top of my head)!


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Brothers are AWESOME!

Alana got a mini kitchen set from the Campbells for her birthday (apron included). Benton spent a good 15 minutes on Sunday morning looking through cookbooks to try to find a recipe she could work on. We suggested...Jello.

First, Alana waits patiently and watches "B!" pour Jello into a container she can handle.

He hands it off to her.

And then she does the pouring!

But Big Brothers aren't just good for helping you cook. They can READ to you, too!

"Hey! I'm busy here getting B to do my bidding! Put that thing away!"

"Aw, man! Smile at me like that and I'll do whatever you want... a point!"
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What if she has...Benton and Carson's sense of style?!!!

The horror!
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Update from Julie

Julie takes more of a semi-regular newsletter approach to providing updates. For those of you who are reading this because you received one of her updates...this post is a repeat of that information verbatim.


A good deal of chaos has ensued here in Austin, but we seem to have a breather in the moving process, so I thought I'd send out a little update on our lives at the moment.

1. We have sold our house in Austin and are moving out by August 3rd.

2. We have a contract on a house in Dublin, OH outside of Columbus. We get to move into that on or after August 10th. It needs a little work, including some painting, so we might delay the furniture arrival for a few days.

3. Alana turned 2 on Father's Day. Grandma Marilyn was here to help watch the kids while Tim and I house hunted, so we did not get to do a party for her until this past weekend. She now has a Giggle Elmo chair - like Nicholas Lyren's, which she enjoyed at Christmas. It seems to be cutting into her dining time as she constantly wants to get down and check on Elmo. When asked, she still says she is 1 year old. We are working on that.

4. Alana has learned to say " 'cuse me" in the car. (As in everytime Benton tries to talk to Mom in the front seat of the van from his seat in the way back of the van, I need to talk in a loud voice.) I told her she needs to wait her turn and say "Excuse me" when she wanted to let us know she needed a turn to talk. This means that she now hollers "cuse me" anytime anyone is talking and then when asked what she wants, pauses to come up with something to say. Unfortunately, the rest of us are finding this amusing, so we tend to giggle which is only encouraging her.

5. Alana has figured out her loud voice, but doesn't seem to have gotten the whole whispering thing yet. I am beginning to think she has forgotten about normal talking tones as well.

6. Carson is loving camp, which is now in week 2 of 2. He managed to make a clay boat that floated with 25 beans before toppling over. He is also learning how to draw a few chinese characters and has taught me a little of what he knows. Interestingly, the symbol for volcano is the mountain and fire symbols together.......

7. Benton does not like camp, which Carson is loving, so is finding this week a LONG one already. I pick him up at noon (and Carson at 3:00), so he is getting some alone time with me while Alana naps, which is a bonus for him. He used some of his birthday money to buy Risk, the board game that takes longer than Monopoly! It also has a gazillion or so teeny, tiny pieces which Carson wants to play with and Alana is intrigued by, so finding a spot to play and leave the game set up is proving difficult. I donated the dining room table to the cause yesterday but have vowed we will eat there today.

For more details, check out the blog Tim has been posting on the website. A link is located in the first paragraph on the page. He has some pictures there. He has also posted a photo album on the webpage, in case you want to see more pictures of the kids.

Attached is one of the pictures of Alana posted in the album. She is showing off her new shoes. About 3 weeks after we got these shoes, she managed to lose one, probably fell out of the car as we were leaving a store, so now has a blue and fuschia colored pair of the same style. I suppose 1 lost shoe in 8 years of kids shoes shouldn't be a big deal, but it still hurts to go buy a new set of the same shoes so soon after the first pair.

I hope you are having a great summer. Ours is proving to be a wet one! More rain expected today (and tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, etc. ......)



Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Risk, Anyone?

Benton's passion for chess has waned. Temporarily, I'm sure. But, he used some of his remaining birthday money earlier this week to buy Risk. Remember Risk? It seems like one of those games, along with Monopoly and Dungeons and Dragons, that my generation (and, perhaps a half a generation in either direction) grew up with. In our teen years, you either got hooked on one of these or you didn't. I...didn't. I had a D&D game, but I don't think I ever played it for more than an hour at a time. That might have been the result of growing up in a rural area where getting a critical mass of like-minded teenagers together took a good chunk of effort. Or, it might have been that I lacked the imagination to really get into it.

My cousin, Steve Wilson, was a big D&D player. But, he's always been on another, higher plane intellect-wise -- Plan II at The University of Texas, wrote poetry in high school, was an early adopter of the personal computer, and now teaches math and supports his school's computer lab in Illinois. As for Monopoly and Risk, I just never really had the patience to play a whole game. They seemed to take sooooooo long.

Benton hasn't gotten hooked on Monopoly. Yet. But, good friends of ours, the Herberts, have kids that are hooked. I wouldn't be surprised if Benton winds up getting into the game at some point before we leave (although their son, who is just a bit older than Benton, is playing All-Stars baseball this summer, which is 3 hours of practice every weeknight and a tournament every weekend, so that's keeping them pretty busy).

Benton discovered Risk over the summer when we were in Colorado. Dave Roth is the husband of Julie's godparents' daughter, Brittany. One more time: the husband of Julie's godparents' daughter, Brittany. Still struggling? The picture of the couple where the lady is on the cell phone a couple of posts back -- he's their son-in-law. We stayed with Brittany and Dave on the front and back end of our summer vacation last year. It turns out that Dave and his friends were hugely into Risk in college. Somehow, the game board came out during our visit, and Benton learned to play. As Benton is prone to do, he just filed away that knowledge for eleven months and then announced he'd like to buy the game. It says that it's for ages 10 and up. But, he's going ahead and whupping up on Julie to make up for the fact that he's not, technically, old enough to play yet.

Of course, that means we've had a Risk game board migrating back and forth between our dining room table and the activity table for several days as they continue the game. Julie has visions of marathon Risk games amongst Benton (and maybe Carson) and their friends down in the basement of our house in Ohio. We'll see if that comes to pass. Personally, I feel no compulsion at all to join into the game. It still seems long and relatively boring. But I am looking forward to the prospect of being in a house that's big enough that the Risk board won't necessarily have to be mobile in order to complete a game!

While I'm on the subject of board games...

I read an article in The New Yorker last week (not last week's issue, mind you -- I'm wayyyyyyy behind on that front) about the game Life. Did you know that The Checkered Game of Life was what really launched Milton Bradley? Heck, did you know that Milton Bradley was a person and not a company founded by a Mr. Milton and a Mr. Bradley? Milton Bradley invented it back in 1860, although, apparently, it wasn't an entirely original invention, in that similar concepts/ideas had been the basis of other games that existed long before then. The modern game is closest to the 100th anniversary edition that the Milton Bradley Company rolled out in 1960. But, it's continued to get tweaked and tuned (and had its currency adjusted for inflation) almost continuously. I've got some vague memories of playing Life growing up, but apparently didn't really get hooked on that, either!


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Busy weekend -- productive and fun

Saturday morning, Benton got into "best big brother in the world" mode with Alana. Mostly, he built tunnels and caves for her with the furniture and cushions in the living room. Actually, the picture in the previous entry here was taken by Benton of Alana crawling through a tunnel he had made. The unintended consequence of this was that, when given a choice, Alana wanted Benton to handle everything for her for the rest of the day. This included diaper changes (he flat-out refused) and brushing her teeth (which he did, pretending to be somewhat miffed, but clearly pleased).

Backing up a little bit, actually... Julie and I had stayed up with Marilyn until after midnight on Friday night. But, we were both awake by 7:30 on Saturday morning. Since Marilyn and Gene were still here, we decided to sneak off for a walk. Some day, the kids will be old enough that we can do this any old evening or any old morning. Right? That day will come. Won't it?

I managed to get the yard mowed and edged. And, I made a run to the airport with Gene so he could return their rental car before noon. Julie ran Gene and Marilyn to the airport mid-afternoon. She also made a run to pick up a birthday cake for Alana, balloons, and an Elmo chair for a birthday gift. We were heading over to Tom and Cherylann Campbell's house for dinner. Their daughter, Angela, was Benton's first real friend. And, likewise, Benton was Angela's first friend. They were in daycare together and really clicked in an opposites-attract sort of way -- Benton being the quintessential "sensitive child," and Angela being the quintessential "spirited child." Off and on, they've been at the same school over the years, and were at the same school (although different classes) for 1st and 2nd grade. For our part, we really like Tom and Cherylann, so we've been happy to find excuses to get together with them over the years. It's touching actually, in that Angela is genuinely unhappy that we're moving to Ohio. Tom and Cherylann are both from upstate New York, though, and have relatives in Cleveland. For various reasons, they're actually thinking they might come up and spend a week with us for vacation next year, which would be great.

Yes. I digress.

Cherylann had called Julie a while back about having us over for dinner. Julie asked if we could make that Alana's birthday party. Her birthday was last Sunday -- Father's Day -- but Julie and I were in Ohio, and Alana is a bit out from knowing when her birthday actually is, so Julie rescheduled it for this weekend.

I sort of failed to mention that Julie and Benton are the only two people outside of Angela's parents who have not missed a single one of Angela's birthday parties. Their son, Ben, is a bit younger than Carson. It's a formula for chaos, really, but a chaos that had Benton spontaneously commenting, "That was fun" after we left. We brought balloons, a cake, and Alana's presents. The Campbells provided dinner. I don't think we left until after 9:00.

This morning, I got up on the roof and did the requisite branch trimming as we'd committed to in the contract with the buyers of our house. That's work that is a guaranteed formula for a sore lower back. Alana wound up across the cul-de-sac at Jerry and Judy Schaaf's while Julie pitched in and helped me cut up and bundle the brush. After cleaning up from that, I did some more work on a little kitchen cabinetry project for our next-door neighbors that I've been plugging away at for several months. They pulled out their trash compactor when they tiled their kitchen, and I'm building a cabinet back into that space, including dividers for cookie sheets. They're starting to get a little antsy that it won't be done before we leave. And, since I'm doing it for fun, it's not like they can withhold payment! The project has its challenges, as I'm having to make both sides of the opening somehow connect, even though they don't really align with each other, and, through what must have taken some real effort on the part of the original carpenter, there is not a single 90 degree angle in the whole project. So, it's got a nice dose of intellectual stimulation combined with making sawdust.

Despite standing on my anti-fatigue mats while working on that project, my back was tightening up by 5:00 or so. I knocked off, took a dip in the pool, then hit the hot tub. Aunt Kim is coming over for dinner tonight. In the middle of the other work, I managed to make a batch of pizza dough, and Julie squeezed in a run to the grocery store to get some gourmet pizza fixin's.

And the dinner bell is ringing...


Saturday, June 23, 2007

New camera --> new pictures

Quick note here to point out that I've added a new album for viewing on the web as well as new pictures to the desktop rotating pictures.
I'm wondering if I might start playing around with Flickr one of these days. Shutterfly seems to be getting a little stale design/features-wise.


Friday, June 22, 2007

You know cell phones have intruded on your life too much when...

Isn't this a nice picture of a happy couple? It's Bruce and Cheryl Bone, Julie's godparents in Dallas during Marilyn's visit to Dallas.

Oh. Wait. Look closely. CHERYL'S ON THE PHONE!!!

Now, apparently, there is a perfectly logical explanation for this picture. But it's not nearly as interesting as just posting the picture.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

And we're under contract!

We're officially under contract with a house in Dublin, OH!

It turns out, after doing some more research, on a pure school-to-school comparison, Julie prefers the elementary school that the kids are going to get bused to. It's still not ideal that they'll be bused, but even Benton pointed out that that means he'll have two distinct places to make and have friends: school and the neighborhood.

And, once again, we'll be in a house that does not have any houses behind us. That makes us 3 for 3 on that front.

I need to go do some research on blog aggregators now. I really thought this thing was pretty well hidden. I was actually surprised that an earlier post cropped up on one of my former boss's blog feeds because the name of my last company showed up in it. Then, if you read the comments on the previous post, you'll see the entry popped up on a guy who does music and web stuff for Fair Game with Faith Salie.

It's pretty amazing, really. There are almost no links to that aren't on (although it has been found by major search engines). And, there's only the one conscious link to this blog, and that's from the main page of this site. Of course, I'm using Google's Blogger to actually create and manage the blog. So, it makes sense that the blog is "known" to exist and is getting picked up by search engines. I'm guessing, but probably won't go to the hastle of confirming, that, in both cases, the folk who stumbled across these posts are using Google Alerts. I've used them myself in the past to monitor news on products that I use at work, as well as to monitor a couple of competitors.

I tell ya'. This Internet thing is going to be BIG!


Killer App for Music Aficionados

Within a one-week period, two different sources described Pandora to me. Jonathan Roe, a former co-worker, current friend, and musician who is actively playing with 3 or 4 different bands at any given time mentioned it over lunch. Then, I heard an interview with the founder of the site on an NPR podcast (the real focus of the piece was how royalties legislation is changing such that the site might wind up not being viable).

The concept is hinted at by the site's tagline that the tool is "based on the Music Genome Project." Pandora has an engine that is trying to catalogue all recorded music based on the "DNA" of the music -- the use of vocal harmony, the use of acoustic instrumentation, specific instruments, and dozens of other attributes. So, you enter an artist or set of artists who you like, and Pandora dynamically builds a radio station that has other artists you might like. I started with John Prine, Todd Snider, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, and Jerry Jeff Walker. The site plays songs by those guys, of course. But, it does more.

It also played songs by other artists. For each song, you have the option to give it a thumbs-up (I like it) or a thumbs-down (I don't really like it). It played some music by Kris Kristofferson (thumbs up), Gram Parsons (thumbs up), Son Volt (thumbs up), Johnny Cash (thumbs up), Woody Guthrie (thumbs up), George Strait (thumbs down -- based on the song played), and others. The site then takes that additional data and tunes your preferences.

You can register for the site for free and then share your radio station with others.

And, the interface is very nice.

I've added a link to it in my "Links" section at right.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's all about finding the right motivation...

I'm trying to get better about including pictures in these posts. Our new digital camera helps! The boys have been bugging Julie to let them watch a movie. Last night, they ran out of time. This evening, after dinner, she told them they just needed to get the house picked up and then they could have some movie time.

The result:

And, thanks to their speediness, they got to:


And the shoe yet lingers in the air...

I missed hitting the gym this morning because Julie opted for us to talk when the alarm went off at 4:45 AM rather than last night. She did some calling around today to find out more about the school and details on the bus route (yes, she actually talked to the district's bus route manager). She also talked to her cousin. And Benton. And she spent some time looking at some more house listings in Dublin. In the end, she decided that, although it's not ideal, it'll be okay. So, we're restarting negotiations on the house. Crossing my fingers that we'll be under contract by the end of the week!


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

And the shoe...might...just...DROP!

I've been waiting for this day. Really, I have. Ever since we set the wheels in motion on this whole relocation to Ohio, things have gone pretty darn smoothly. Almost toooooo smoothly <cue Twilight Zonemusic>. First, it was really easy for me to enter the job market. Without too much wait and without too much legwork, I had multiple job possibilities. I had a fairly easy decision when it came to which job to take. My former company was very supportive of my decision as well (not so supportive, though, as to make me think they'd actually been hoping I would leave!). Julie tackled prepping the house to put it on the market early and stayed with it steadily. Once it went on the market, it was under contract inside two weeks. And, if you read the last post, even our house-shopping trip to Columbus went well, in that we wound up with two almost-equally-attractive houses.

The first house didn't work out, but we entered negotiations on the second one, and things were moving right along.

Until Julie found some time to get online.

And do some additional research.

The school district the house is in was number 2 on her list of 4 good districts. She'd nudged Dublin, OH up to number 1 on her list after driving around the community.

What did she find out today, then? Well, somewhere, she found out that the elementary school that Benton and Carson would be attending is overcrowded. Consequently, any kids who move into the area after March 7, 2007 will be bused to another school. Same great district, just not the same school that, potentially, other kids on the same street would be going to. This is (apparently) a BIG DEAL.

After Julie let me know this was the case (in the middle of probably my most hectic day since I've been at my current job), I had a flash. Why, everything was going to be okay. It struck me that, had we stayed in Austin in our current house, we'd be in the exact same situation! Based on all of the research Julie did before Benton started first grade, she'd decided that he would be better off attending a different school in the district than the one that is closest to our house. So, for the past two years, he's been bused (by me) to that school. And Carson was slated to join him next year. So, this new news wasn't a big deal at all!

Or was it?

Stay tuned. We're slated to discuss it this evening. Which started about 5 minutes ago when Benton went to bed.

I do believe the shoe may be dropping (and THAT, dear reader, is the connection to the picture of Alana above -- notice that she is wearing no shoes!).


Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Tell me one more time what you do...?"

I've had a couple of people ask me what exactly I do at my new job. Sitting in the airport in Columbus waiting for our (delayed) flight, this seemed like a halfway decent topic to tackle. Quick house update: we've found two houses that we really like in Dublin, Ohio. We've written up offers for both of them, and it was almost a coin flip as to which one we issued first. As Kurt Compeau, Chief Negotiator at National Instruments taught me, "We're in an enviable position, in that we have multiple viable options." Heck -- he taught me that that was the line even if you don't have multiple viable options. But, in our case, we do. So, hopefully, we'll be under contract with a house within the next few days.

Now, on to what I do. The really short descriptions is: "I'm the Director of Business Process Analytics at a demand generation company." That's short, and very accurate. But, also, I realize, as intelligible as saying, "I'm the Grand Farquat of Gibberdy Gump at an igloodink that huckles nibbers" for most of the two or three people who might actually be reading this.

I guess this is the sort of thing that happens in the world economy of the 21st century, where business is increasingly complex and specialization is the order of the day. So, let me start with explaining what a "demand generation company" is.

Demand generation is a big chunk of what business-to-business (B2B) companies are focussing on these days. It's trying to find the best ways to find people at companies that have a need for your product, helping them realize they need your product, and getting them fed into an efficient and effective sales channel to get as many of them as possible to buy your product. And, by "product," I mean "product or service," as lots of B2B action these days is in the services area. But that's a whole other blog entry.

Bulldog Solutions helps companies be more effective with their demand generation. One example, and an area where Bulldog Solutions really offers a best-of-breed solution, is in the use of webinars (or webcasts, or web events). I hadn't realized how much the use of webinars in the B2B world had worked its way into my normal life, even at National Instruments, until I took my current job and found out, in quick succession, that neither Julie, my mother, nor Marilyn had any idea what a webinar was. If you're familiar with webinars, or if you clicked on the "webcasts" link earlier in this paragraph and read the content, then skip the next paragraph, which is a lengthy paragraph (but still just a cursory primer) on the subject.

In olden times -- back in, say, 2003 or 2004 -- one of the cornerstones of B2B selling in an increasingly complex business environment was the "seminar." A sales person at a company that sold a complex product could not always sell simply by making phone calls. Many products and services really required a face-to-face conversation and demonstration. So, they would have Marketing and maybe an Inside Sales organization set up as many of these face-to-face visits with potential customers as possible. But, they could gain some real efficiency if they rented a conference room at a hotel and invited a bunch of prospects within that geographic area to come to them for a couple hours or a half-day presentation. This worked, and there were best practices developed in this area. For instance, those seminars get a lot better attendance if they're not a straight-up sales pitch. They work better if the seminar actually presents new, useful information that is product-independent. Of course, the salesperson would work in a few plugs for their products, but, if they didn't really demonstrate they were industry experts and provide content of real value, then they wouldn't necessarily be incentivizing the attendees to buy their products, and they wouldn't be likely to see those same prospects again in the future. Several shortcomings of this approach: 1) it can be expensive to secure a place to hold these seminars, 2) it requires prospects to decide that it's worth leaving their jobs and driving to a place to sacrifice half a day or more...with no guarantee that it will be worth their while, 3) to really offer these seminars globally would require hundreds or thousands of these seminars to be set up, and if a really good prospect happened to have a conflict, he/she's just going to miss the content. Enter the internet. A webinar is a seminar...conducted via the Web. Typically (currently), it consists of audio with slides (like PowerPoint) shown as the speaker talks. There are obvious upsides to this: 1) geographic limitations drop dramatically (timezone limitations still exist, but those are a much, much lower barrier to overcome), 2) "finding space" limitations disappear, as all of the attendees are participating virtually from their own offices, 3) the quality of the presenter(s) can be increased, because they, too, participate virtually, so you can have an industry expert in California co-presenting with another expert in New York without requiring either of them to travel, 4) the time investment for the attendee is dramatically lower -- he can wrap up a meeting at 12:55 and be attending a webinar at 1:00; and, if the content isn't what he hoped it to be, he can "leave" unobtrusively at 1:10, 5) the presentation can be recorded and made available "on demand" for people who did not attend the live event, so they can view it at their leisure. There are obvious downsides, too: the "personal touch" that comes from an in-person presentation is dramatically reduced. And, the audience isn't as captive -- a person may be "attending" a webinar...but checking their e-mail or having a discussion with someone else in their office at the same time. There is less interactivity. All of these are very real, but there are ways to minimize them. For instance, well-done webinars are sprinkled with "polling questions" during the session, whereby all of the virtual attendees answer a multiple-choice question related to the topic. And, well-done webinars enable attendees to type in specific questions for the presenter, which get addressed either at the end of the webinar or through a follow-up phone call or e-mail after the event. The economics make webinars a no-brainer in a demand generation-driven world. The goal is usually not to close the sale directly through the webinar. The goal is to build credibility for your company as an industry expert, as well as to identify the subset of registrants and attendees who have the most promising "profile" of someone who would benefit from your product. These people are the ones that Sales should follow up with first. And, Marketing should be following up with everyone to further build the credibility of the company, as well as to encourage these prospects to self-identify themselves as interested potential customers. Did you follow all of that?

Webinars are just one technology that the internet has made available to companies to help them more effectively sell their products. There are dozens more, and more emerging each month: RSS, podcasts, blogs, wikis, social media in general, and more are all examples of what is commonly referred to as Web 2.o. Actually, the fact that you're reading this in a blog, and the fact that all of the links I provided in that last sentence are to Wikipedia articles is a microcosm of the Web 2.0 world. This whole blog is managed through Google's, even though it's published on my site at It took all of 10 minutes for me to set it up, and that was not because I'm a techno-whiz on that front.

Bulldog Solutions is all about Web 2.0. We help companies figure out how to effectively use Web 2.0 technologies to drive demand for their products. A big part of being effective in that area is measuring the effectiveness. The internet is increasingly dynamic. Just in the past few weeks, Bulldog has been playing around with personalized-video-in-e-mail. Imagine a voicemail, combined with a text e-mail, with video added. It's pretty slick and, we think, a very effective way to communicate in certain situations. Measuring all of this can get tricky and complex. That's my world -- figuring out better and better ways for both Bulldog to measure the effectiveness of our use of these technologies, as well as then helping push these measurement techniques out to our customers.

The bulk of this entry has wound up being about what demand generation in the Web 2.0 world means, with then just a couple of sentences that are specific to my job. But, that's as it should be. If you get what the company does, you're 90% of the way to getting what I do.

We'll be boarding in 10 minutes, and Julie was hoping to check out the latest entry at, so TTFN!


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Killing Time in Columbus

Julie is on Day 3 of the on-site home search in Columbus. I'm on Day 1. We've actually got it narrowed down to two houses, one of which is (we think) a clear frontrunner. Guess which one is more expensive? We've definitely narrowed the search down to Dublin, Ohio, which has lots of trees and lots of paved walking/bike paths. The paths almost always go underneath the roads, which, obviously, is great for the kids. There seem to be a lot of parks around, too.

We're back at the realtor's office right now. Julie is doing digging and research on what our payments would be at various houses, taking into account taxes and insurance and who knows what else, while the realtor is running comps. I did "signature duty" for a while on a bunch of paperwork that Julie had already signed. And, I even stepped in and filled out the "tell us about yourself" sheet that the realtor keeps on file so she can refresh her memory and personalize future communication. I do believe I nailed everyones' birthdays (including year) and our anniversary. And, I got to have a little fun with some of the background/personal what-do-you-like type stuff. I don't know whether or not Julie will review that or not. But, the paper does list that one of the things she likes to do in her spare time is: "adore my husband."

We're actually going to have the late afternoon and evening off, it seems! We might actually see a movie! We'll likely do a little bit of shopping, too, to pick up something for the kids, as well as to buy me a shirt to wear tomorrow, as I put one of the two shirts I'd brought on this morning only to discover that it has a 3" greasy-looking discoloration right in the middle of the chest! This has happened to several of my shirts over the past year or two, and the stains don't come out. They go into the washer cleaner than when they come out! We have no idea what's going on there. The plan is to hit the two finalis houses again on Sunday morning so that we're not mixing them up with the other 6 or so houses we looked at today. With luck, we'll be inking an offer before we fly out and can be in an option period by early next week.

Oh, and from the, "Oh, really!?" department...

One of the things that came up when we were listing our house was how much higher per square foot we were asking than the comps in an x-mile radius of our house had sold for. Well, the reality is that we listed a fair price -- the comps were all in wildly different neighborhoods (not as well maintained and laid out) and, obviously, didn't all necessarily have the sort of improvements that we'd put in (or a cul-de-sac, or a swimming pool, or a greenbelt, etc.). It worked out, and we're getting a good, fair price for the house.

Of course, now we're a buyer. I got quite the aggressive lecture from Marilyn about how price per square foot was just a stupid calculation, and that, "it must just be a Texas thing to even look at that." Funny: the first number our realtor (who we got through a recommendation of one of Marilyn's friends) in Ohio rattled off when she was running comps this afternoon was...price per square foot! Granted, she's not saying that's a gold rule, either. But, it's clearly a stat that is a useful starting point / gut check. Perhaps it's a bit petty to include this in my blog. But it's my blog.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Picking baseball players like her mother picks wine, in a way

Julie, who is up in Ohio as the advance team for our blitzkrieg-style home search that will wrap up Sunday morning, chooses wine and beer based on how much the artwork on the label strikes her fancy. Neither one of us has a particularly refined palate, and we really don't drink all that much wine or beer, so this works out well. She's got a hit rate well over 95%, as far as I can tell. But, she uses one sense -- sight -- to select for another sense -- taste.

How on earth am I going to link that to Alana?

Well, Julie's mother, Marilyn, and her "baseball buddy" Gene flew down on Tuesday. They're watching the kids while Julie (and then I) are home searching in Columbus this weekend. Gene is a *huge* baseball fan. Specifically, the Chicago Cubs (although he had a son who was in the Phillies farm system for several years; I don't know where his loyalties lay then -- they are both National League teams, so meet up several times during the regular season). Once Julie and I are back in town, Marilyn and Gene are going to drive up to Dallas to catch three Cubs games when they play the Rangers.

Conveniently, although I've never understood why, our as-basic-as-it-could-possibly-be cable includes WGN out of Chicago. Last night, Gene settled down in the office to watch the Cubs play the Mariners. Carson got interested in the game, and Alana got interested in dragging a cushion from the sofa in the living room into the office. Carson was grilling Gene on what the score was and who was up to bat. Jose Guillen came to the plate for the Mariners, and Gene told Carson his name -- pronounced HO-say GEE-un. As soon as he said it, Alana repeated, "Jose Guillen!" Everyone chuckled. So she said it again. This is reminiscent of how Benton (and now Carson) wound up calling me "Tim" instead of "Dad." Half an hour later, Alana went to bed. She was a little wired, so sat in her crib yelling, "Jose Guillen! Jose Guillen!" for a while. It was pretty damn funny (and is almost everything she does, IMHO).

So, it sort of seems like she's picked a favorite baseball player based on how his name sounds. Or, perhaps, on what it feels like to say his name. That's my link to Julie's alcohol selection technique. Of course, "favorite baseball player" is not exactly one of the five senses, but I'm not going to quibble with myself. That would just be silly.

I'm bolting out of work a little early tomorrow to catch a flight to Columbus. Julie reported that, of the 13 houses she looked at with the realtor this afternoon, 3 of them look like real possibilities. One of them they could only see from the outside, so we'll be hitting that on Saturday morning. Things are looking encouraging there!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

T-ball, anyone?

Carson is officially on the baseball path now. He started a summer T-ball league on Monday night. He actually missed the first practice, which was on Saturday. But, he's got another practice on Thursday. He'll practice on Mondays and, normally, play games on Thursdays. He's on par with the other kids his age when it comes to fielding/catching. But, he's watched enough baseball of older kids and college, and he's gone through enough Dad-or-Benton pitched balls in the cul-de-sac, that he is well ahead on the how/where to stand for hitting. He was very proud of the fact that the coach didn't have to show him how to do that.

We're having pretty much constant conversations about how priorities when it comes to playing: 1) have fun, 2) try your best, 3) treat others with respect. And...winning doesn't even make the list. I tried to give him the old, "in baseball, a player who gets out 2 out of 3 times is considered a great player" speech...but he wasn't hanging with me on that. He's determined that he's going to hit the ball "SOOOOO far that [he'll] have a HOME RUN every time!"

We've got a new camera on order -- should be here late this week. With luck, I'll start getting some pictures up along with these posts.


Tim's GFCI Saga -- Epilogue

That last outlet in the master bathroom yielded a surprise -- it's on the same circuit as the other bathroom...and the garage. Pretty nifty, in that a single GFCI outlet can protect all three. It would've been niftier if I'd figured that out and tracked down which was most upstream in the circuit from the get-go! As it turned out, the circuit started at the master bathroom. So, I took the GFCI outlet from the kids' bathroom -- just installed on Sunday -- and put it in the master bathroom and put a regular outlet in the kids' bathroom.

All done.


I'm actually looking forward to trimming the tree branches -- I can clearly SEE what needs to happen there!


Sunday, June 10, 2007

$500 to install GFCI outlets? That's outRAGEous! It seemed.

Ahhhhh. The joys of selling a 30-year-old house.

One of the items our buyer's inspector turned up was that we didn't have GFCI-protected outlets in our kitchen and bathrooms. This was pretty obvious, and we're both surprised that it's not something we'd already taken care of -- surely it showed up when we had the house inspected before we bought it four years ago. We did a pretty good job of making a spreadsheet of those sorts of tasks and whittling away at them over time. Nonetheless, it seemed like a reasonable expectation on the part of the buyer. They'd SWAGged a cost of $500 to have them added. That seemed just silly -- maybe getting an electrician out to do the work...on a Sunday...over a long weekend would have gotten somewhere close to that. But, I figured $15 or so apiece for three outlets, and I could replace them all in an hour or two. So, we committed to having that issue corrected prior to closing -- we'd just do it ourselves.

The best laid plans...

I'll skip the variety of missteps I took along the way -- minor inefficiencies more than anything.

First off, I neglected to think through the number of circuits involved. I quickly calculated 1 kitchen + 2 bathrooms = 3 GFCI outlets required. From past projects, I'm well aware of the fact that we've got outlets on two different circuits in our kitchen. That required an additional trip to The Home Depot for a fourth GFCI outlet.

Then, I failed to get the most upstream outlet in one of the I left a plug unprotected initially in the kitchen. Correcting that was a bit of a nuisance, in that I had to undo work I had already done. Count that as one of the aforementioned missteps.

Still, nothing major to that point.

Then, I tackled the kids' bathroom. Easy enough, because there's only one outlet in the room. So, even if there were other outlets on the circuit, they weren't somewhere where they needed to be protected. I installed it. And it wouldn't reset. I went in search of the other outlets on the circuit and finally found the garage. For those of you who are not familiar with our house, the garage is pretty much the farthest point from the kids' bathroom. Actually, I found out those outlets were involved because I was simultaneously working on some minor kitchen retrofitting for our next-door neighbors, and I'd decided to return to that project while mulling my next steps on the GFCI front. But...I had no power in the garage!

What followed was rather tedious. I could guess which outlet in the garage was probably next in line from the bathroom outlet, so I disconnected the wires and then tried resetting the GFCI outlet. It reset fine. I then used my voltmeter to figure out which wires in the garage outlet were the incoming line and wired them to a newer outlet (I had some floating around, so figured I might as well replace the outlet, since I was disconnecting the wires anyway) -- leaving off the line running out. Again, the GFCI reset worked. I hooked up the lines out and moved on to the next outlet and repeated the whole process. Basically, I was just working my way along the circuit one outlet at a time, disconnecting everything downstream, and seeing if the circuit worked with the GFCI protection. Eventually, I figured out the culprit was an outlet that is now in our hot water heater closet -- it used to be in the garage, but we had the hot water heater relocated before we moved in, so that outlet is now completely unusable. I just took the outlet off and capped the wires.

All told, I spent ~4 hours on that one GFCI installation. And, I didn't make as much progress on our neighbors' kitchen as I'd planned, either. I thought about tackling our bathroom...but if I ran into any sort of similar issues, I'd be up much later than I'd like. So, that'll wait for another time.

I have to say, spending a hot June afternoon doing electrical work in a garage in central Texas, where the nature of the work meant I didn't have an easy way to run the fan, made me look forward to our northward move!


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Jesters and the Chessmaster

I'm a bit delinquent in getting a picture of Benton at the chessboard up -- the last picture here really applies more to an earlier posting. As for the jesters, my new company had it's quarterly outing on Thursday night. All employees and their families/significant others went bowling. Along with the bowling was a crazy hat contest. Bowling is right up with "visiting Las Vegas" on my list of things that I'd just as soon avoid if at all possible, but the kids really enjoy it. And, as a newbie, it seemed like we out to participate in all of the activities. I suggested to Julie that making hats of some sort my be a good summertime craft activity for the kids. As is usual in that sort of thing, she went a little overboard. Craft foam, a couple of bags of bells, a hot glue gun, and several afternoons of work with the kids (Carson suffered the only casualty when he burned his finger on the glue gun), and voila! Jester hats!

We took home the "most original" prize.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Book Recommendations from Benton

I wound up at work fairly late last night and did not get home until almost 9:00. The house was quiet. I wandered into our bedroom to find Julie and Benton curled up in our bed reading their respective books.

Benton has really gotten into the Children of the Lamp series. It's about 12-year-old fraternal twins -- brother and sister, actually -- who discover that they are "djinn." Meaning, they're genies, basically. Benton read the first book and thought highly enough of it that he wanted someone else to read it. So, I am currently wrapping up the first book while he plows through the second. It's entertaining -- Harry Potter-ish...but more in the vein of mixing some historical facts regarding ancient Egypt and other places with some "explanations" (how they are djinn-induced) of the sorts of things that go bump in the night.

Benton commented that the book he is reading is the sequel to the one I'm reading, which, "must be good, because it says here it was on the New York Times bestseller list." I asked him if he had any idea how many books fall in that category. Not that I know...but I made a comment that there are thousands of books, and just because it sells well doesn't mean it's a great book. Doing what I can to turn him into a cynic as early as possible. It does make me want to browse the list of books that have been on that list and find ones that I think are stinkers. Have any ideas? Add a comment!


Monday, June 4, 2007

Bedtime for Mr. Charming

Despite the fact that his bed is up against a wall, Carson definitely wakes up each morning on one side of it or the other. Julie has taken to referring to him as "Mr. Charming" when he wakes up on the pleasant side of the bed. And, we often ask him if Mr. Charming is going to be around for various events.

This evening, Mr. Charming went to bed. He started out by reading three of his BOB Books First books to me while lying in his bed. He was supposed to read just one while waiting for Julie to track down his Batman book. She...forgot. So, he kept reading to me. Finally, he went looking for her. After a five-minute search, they decided the book was not going to turn up tonight, and Carson decided that he would rather read another book to Julie and me rather than having me read a book to him. I was on the verge of drifting off throughout the book (the kid has a nice little cave for a bed -- very sleep-inducing for anyone...who is not a five-year-old with an active imagination). When he finished reading, Julie went to leave. The following conversation ensued:

Julie: "Now, if Dad falls asleep while you're snuggling, just come tell me and I'll get him up and send him to his own bed."

Carson: "I know how to get him up."

Julie: "How?"

Carson: "I'll give him a Wet Willy."

Tim: "I heard that!"

A conversation then ensued in which Julie pointed out that I was (allegedly) the person who taught every member of our family what a Wet Willy was!

Mr. Charming then announced that he wanted a group hug with both of his parents. We began discussing how impressive it is that Carson, although he only started reading last week, is already up to book number 9 (there was also a little bit of showing off where he was doing simple addition problems for us). Carson has also continued to try to play chess with Benton, and he has picked up all the moves, but, predictably, consistently gets beaten by a big brother who has zero interest in throwing a game to make his little brother feel good about himself. This typically results in Carson bemoaning how stupid he is and how bad he is at the game. Needless to say, he's a sharp little cuss...with a sharp older brother, and he doesn't understand the difference between "relative" and "absolute" when he is evaluating himself.

So, as we were lying in bed with him, we started chatting about how many things he does well. He started telling us how much 5 + 5 is and 4 + 4, and that evolved into me asking him how much 1 + 2 was and then 2+ 3. As this lazy quiz was going on -- Carson was in hog heaven as his bedtime was being extended in the dark -- Julie threw him a curveball: "Do you know how to make your sister go to sleep?" (Alana was chattering away in the next room):

Carson: "Yep."

Julie: "How?"

Carson: "Sing her a song."

He then climbed out of bed and, while Julie and I lay in his bed listening, proceeded into Alana's room and sang two songs to her: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and You Are My Sunshine. He then asked her if she wanted her door open or closed and returned to his room, where Julie and I were feigning sleep (to see what he would do).

He walked back out of the room and into our room, where Benton was reading, and told Benton it was time for him to head to bed. After a brief discussion (we couldn't hear the specifics), Carson returned to his room, inserted his finger in his mouth, tiptoed up to his bed, bent over...and busted out laughing. Thus, saving Julie from a Wet Willy!

All of that, of course, earned him an unsolicited 5 minutes of one-on-one snuggling with me.

Mr. Hyde will return, we're sure, but tonight, we had Mr. Charming!


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Chess, anyone...?

As I'd mentioned in an earlier post, Julie took the kids to the Austin Children's Museum on Friday evening. Aunt Kim went with them. Benton really, really, really wanted someone to teach him how to play chess, as there was a board at the museum. Julie claimed that she did not know the rules, so Aunt Kim took on the task. In their first game, they played to a draw. In the second game...they ran out of time.

On Saturday, Benton asked if he could spend his remaining birthday money on a chess set, which he did. And...that's pretty much all he wants to do now. Carson, of course, wants to be just like Big Brother Benton, so he is insisting that he learn to play. Benton is not keen on the idea, but, when given no one else to play with him, he has taken on at least teaching him the moves. So far, that has lasted for about 15 minutes with Carson doing really well -- learning and remembering how each of the different pieces can move -- before Benton knocks off one of his pieces and Carson disintegrates into a fit of, "I'm stupid! I always lose!" Julie, I think, has some books that she's hoping will help her figure out how to handle that. Let's all hold our collective breaths!

So far, I've managed to beat Benton twice, but, in both cases, I made some blunders of which he quickly took advantage. And, he definitely had me on the defensive in both games for a while. I was never all that big on playing chess growing up, so I'm definitely at the Adult Beginner level. I may find that I have to increase my skills to keep it interesting for Benton!


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Julie Kicks into Summer Kid Entertainment Mode

I missed it (that whole "earn a paycheck" thing), but Julie took the kids to both the Texas Jumping Bean and the Austin Children's Museum yesterday. I think the boys might have squeezed in a dip in the pool as well...although that might have been Thursday.

Benton came away from the Texas Jumping Bean with minor abrasions -- all of them blamed on Carson, of course, in his explanation (thus the fierce Carson pirate picture from several weeks ago at right)!

I "played" myself after work by going to a Round Rock Regional baseball game -- The University of Texas against Brown University. Texas was the top seed and everyone was expecting a blowout, but the Brown pitcher held Texas to just a couple of runs over the first six innings. It wasn't until his pitch count got well over 100 that Texas was able to do some real damage. In the end, Texas won 8-2, which means they play again at 6:00 PM today against UC-Irvine (UC-Irvine blew out Wake Forest in the first game on Friday). It's the last hurrah of the college baseball season for me -- even if Texas advances to the super regional in Corpus Christi and then on to Omaha for the College World Series...I'm going to be busy getting moved to Ohio, so no road trips (this year!).
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