Sunday, 31 March 2013

Yanking the Receiver

The Current is launching a new stream dedicated to music from Minnesota’s north shore. Online only stream.This stream is in addition to their primary stream, their MN local stream, their kids stream, and the American Heartland stream. That’s 5 streams. Only one of which has an over the air presence.

Which means, today, 80% of The Current’s offerings aren’t available over your car audio. This problem has frustrated me for years – actually a decade (since podcasting’s bootstrap).

Receiving those streams in a car means a cheap enough and reliable enough data connection covers every street and interstate. It also means having at least an auxiliary port in the dashboard. Two of my last 3 vehicles (1997, 2004 model years) didn’t even have that very primitive technology.

“Alert: Within two years, AM and FM will no longer be offered by two automakers. According to the Convergence panel, radio will be gone from all new cars within five years. Since the automotive companies work three years in advance, these decisions are being made now. It appears that radio really will be gone from the dash unless it’s heard through an Internet radio distribution platform.”

This is huge. I predict this will be an extension of the OnStar service.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Friday, 22 March 2013

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Monday, 11 March 2013

Get Better

“Like everyone, though, I did have relationships — a spouse, friends and family — and none of them got the best version of me. They got what was left over.…I didn’t have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn’t have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn’t have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place with at least some better version of a personal life.” – Erin Callan

It reminds me, the Japanese have a word for death-by-work, karōshi.

I hope there’s a word for life-after-work.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

BBY Cleaning out the Fridge

On Thursday, I wrote this:

“For years Best Buy has sold and installed car stereos. Though, it’s never felt like they really cared about that part of the store (same for home appliances)”

In today’s STrib, there’s a feature store on how Best Buy is focusing on the larger, higher margin home appliances, in a higher-end brand (Pacific Kitchen) as a way to compete with online-only retailers and the tight margins on electronics.

Excellent Move.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Quiet Days are the Second Hardest

TL;DR: Over the past year, I’ve been trying to increase the routine and rhythm in my day for one primary reason – increase and improve creative energy. Essentially, reduce my daily cognitive load for daily tasks thereby increasing the chances of ‘shower thinking’ throughout the day.

Everyday, immediately after I step out of the shower, I floss my teeth. Perhaps it’s not the most logical place in the day for dental hygene. But this is the place in my day where it stuck. For the past six months reaching for the floss at that point in my day has become so natural and routine that I’ve been able to build another behavior atop it – cleaning my glasses. With these small changes in my routine established, I’ve decided to implement some additional changes elsewhere in my day.

The first – wake up before 6:30am each day. As you might expect, this is significantly easier if you retire earlier. I’m sure that’s quite obvious to you. It was a small epiphany to me. Waking up earlier (usually between 5:30 and 6am depending on my Zeo) has reminded me how much I enjoy sunrises. The slowly brightening glow of morning – the chirp of the birds. Even in winter. Arising earlier has also confirmed that I’m a better father once I’ve had an hour to prepare myself for the day. Rather feeling the days have jerky, jarring stops and starts – my days now flow together. I know decisions I make in the evening have a direct impact my morning. Every minute past 10pm means another minute past 6am. Every minute past 6am is another minute I don’t have before the kids want breakfast. Means another minute I don’t have for preparing myself for the day.

Since last October, preparing myself for the day has meant Morning Pages. Three handwritten pages, stream of conscious. Each page takes about 15 minutes. Timed right, the morning sun starts to come through the kitchen window about half way down the third page – the same point the themes in my writing start to come together. There are usually a couple of small To Dos lurking in those pages. Without Morning Pages, I’m sure they’d just haunt me. Instead, they’re completed immediately after putting the notebook away.

Right now, I’m in the midst of training for the Get In Gear Half Marathon. Now, every other day commit to a short (3-5 mile) run before starting any client work. I tried evening runs and afternoon runs. Morning runs have been the most successful. By a long shot.

To track all this I picked up a giant all year calendar from and a handful of thin whiteboard markers.


Then I went at it all Giles Bowkett-style.

All habits that are yet to stabilize are up there. The index card clipped to the top declares 8 habits and 8 colors. Lines marked across days I complete them.

Things that have been easy to instill that I’m still tracking:

  • going to be earlier
  • waking up earlier
  • writing morning pages
  • inbox zero (yes, suprisingly easy sustain inbox zero. More on that later)

“Quiet Days” – defined as not ever, never, directing attention to audio or video media created by someone else. It’s one of the more difficult challenges. Hell, I haven’t marked it off once yet – that’s how difficult I’m finding it. My theory is that every time I turn on the radio (or Pandora, or watch a TED video, or or or or) I’m choosing to not let my ‘shower brain’ offer a clever solution to a problem it’s been working on. Small meditations while driving are amazingly helpful, and so much more peaceful than the fall of civilization presented on broadcast radio. The challenge is in breaking my long-term habit of listening to punk rock and drum-n-bass while working on my hardest problems. The music hurts as much as it once helped. Once I get the first success, I’ll know how to get the second and the third. Yet, even without having a single day crossed off, “Quiet Days” are still the second hardest.

The hardest habit is writing daily for the book project. The mark is 1000 words a day. A humble goal. There are very few marks on the calendar. Fewer than a dozen across 10 weeks. That’s not progress. Writers know this. This isn’t news. Writing is hard work. This is exactly why I’m building routines into my day. The book project is why I’m changing everything else around my. To increase the creative energy I can commit to writing.

Late last year, I read ‘The Power of Full Engagment’, I’ve probably mentioned it to you in a very impassioned tone. It’s good. Here’s what I took away from it: “you’re probably spending your creative energies on things you can do without thinking. Work those things into a routine – and you’ll have the creative energies to do meaningful work.”

The promise is so compelling. Results?

While it’s only 10 weeks into the new year, I’m seeing significant increases in my creative energies. I’m procrastinating far less, I’m feeling more calm, and I’ve sketched out some fresh ideas for projects that have been collecting dust for years. It feels good to move those project forward. And I’m starting to sense the early stages of new projects, new directions, new challenges. Ones that I knew I wouldn’t have noticed with all the cognitive load of determining when I should floss my teeth or clean my glasses.

There. One thousand words.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Best Buy Should Partner with Jiffy Lube Next

My last engagement with Best Buy concluded 4 years ago – and even then it was an organization under a radical transformation. These challenges have only increased in the past year. Additionally, many of digital savvy members of Best Buy’s leadership have left. Yet, I’m still quite optimistic for BBY’s future. I still think Best Buy has a unique opportunity to be an inspiring, forward-looking company – much as Microsoft and Google.

The most interesting move in this direction is the partnership between Best Buy and Target – where Best Buy’s Geek Squad staff Target’s electronics desk. They’ll be at 29 Targets – including the one down the street from me (curiously – not T1). This is a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter partnership that makes you wonder what it didn’t happen sooner. For Best Buy – it exposes the GeekSquad brand and core expertise to a broader customer-base in a venue not know for it’s electronics expertise. Huge win.

Additionally, two other smaller, focused Best Buy stores seem very interesting. The first is the Best Buy Express kiosks in airports and malls (a partnership with Zoom Systems). All the most popular, in demand, portable electronics in a bookcase sized format. My last business trip, I picked up replacement noise-cancelling headphones from a BBY Express on my way to the gate. Easily my fondest Best Buy experience. The second is the Best Buy Mobile stores – focusing on primarily on mobile phones. In my neighborhood, there’s one just across the highway from a Best Buy big box stores. The smaller footprint and focus on portable devices makes them very attractive for strip malls with tight storefronts and likely foot traffic.

Best Buy has extended the Geek Squad brand, portable electronics segment, and mobile phone segment beyond the big box store. What’s next? What would be inspiring and forward looking?

In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright built a gas station in Cloquet, MN. The architecture was based off his Broadacre City project – his vision of a modern urban landscape. Of the gas station he said:

“Watch the little gas station – In our present gasoline service station you may see a crude beginning to such important advance decentralization” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Today, our cars are mostly gasoline-powered mobile computers with wheels. Some of them are even electric mobile computers on wheels with gasoline backup. Whether it’s the electronics with the cars going on the fritz, the additional electronics we put in them not working right, or the two not talking to each other in the way we want our vehicles are now need computer support. Our GeekSquad needs have moved from the home office to the living room to our cars.

For years Best Buy has sold and installed car stereos. Though, it’s never felt like they really cared about that part of the store (same for home appliances). So, I say, send the car stereo section out into the world – just as they have with the GeekSquad and the portable electronics. Partner with someone that knows automotive, with a number of convenient, small footprint locations, and a well-known brand. Someone like JiffyLube. Use the partnership to promote the next generation of automobile technologies: self-driving cars, electric charging stations, natural gas refueling stations, replacement batteries, new interfaces between driver and machine, new passenger entertainment options, the next generation wayfinding systems.

Do something no one else can do – create a place that makes the future of the American car a reality.

Update 2 Apr 2013
Best Buy Co. and Target Corp. have ended their experimental Geek Squad partnership, the Star Tribune has confirmed. Blah. Thanks to MJK for the pointer.