Sunday, January 8, 2017

Day 11: June 8, 2006 - Washington D.C to Baltimore

(Day 10 or start from Day 1)

Day 11: June 8, 2006. Washington D.C. to Baltimore

Woke up early so that we could get to the Capitol early - found out yesterday you actually have to have tickets to get in. Ended up being an extra 1.5 mile walk and an hour less sleep for no reason because we still weren't able to get in. I don't want to talk about.

After our failed attempted in getting into the Capitol we headed over to the Holocaust Museum. We were at the Holocaust Museum for nearly 3 hours. We went over to the Smithsonian after that. Wow, my feet hurt so bad.

We left D.C and went to Baltimore. We are staying tonight with Shannon Guillot. After we dropped our stuff off we headed out to watch Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Dallas up 1-0.

Day 10: June 7, 2006 Washington D.C.

(Day 9 or start from Day 1)

We woke up this morning and did everything. We started by walking over to the capitol, and then walked all the way through mall to the Lincoln Memorial. Then we walked back to see the Washington Monument. My feet hate me.

We came back near the hotel and had some sushi. Mmmmmmmm. I've never had much sushi but I'm starting to like it.

In the afternoon we headed on over to Ford's Theatre (this was my favorite site of the day). We got to sit in the theatre and hear about the last hours of Lincoln's life. After the presentation up on stage we headed down into the basement where there was a Lincoln museum which even had Lincoln's blood-soaked clothes from the night he was shot! Kind of strange and surreal. After that we headed over to the National Gallery (Ford's favorite part of D.C. so far).

In the evening we walked over to Buffalo Billiards in DuPont Circle where we watched the Stanley Cup, game 2, Carolina won again.

After that we walked back to the hotel and I watched Cast Away on Ford's computer.
Van Gogh

Da Vinci
(Day 11)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Trip to Italy! Day 2, August 29, 2014 - "A Day in Milano!"

Entry way into our AirBNB apartment
We woke up from our "nap" and left the apartment around 6pm and headed in the direction of magnificent Milan Duomo. We stopped into a cafe about halfway, and I grabbed a toasted sandwich and and Marek got a salad. We both had the wine the hostess/waitress talked us into ordering.

Feeling a bit rejuvenated, we set out to finish our 15min walk and got to the Piazza del Duomo as the sun was making its way behind many of the buildings - shining soft light on the beautiful Duomo and and its plaza. It was for moments like this I was thrilled to have an actual camera on board our trip - along with someone who knew how to do more with a camera than point/click (Marek - basically any quality photo you see throughout this trip was taken by her).
Our view when we turned the corner coming into the Plazza

We walked into the Duomo and found ourselves watching Friday night mass. The smell of the incense filling the world's 4th largest church was all a bit overwhelming. The marble features and high gothic style architecture was an easy sign that we were having a moment we will not soon forget.
Interior, more photos at bottom of blog

Leaving the Duomo and walking across the Plaza we entered the Galleria. This was the covered outdoor shopping center that helps Milano gain its "Fashion Capital of the World" label. All the high end names you've heard (and not heard of) were all represented, including a yet to open new Versace location.

Throughout the Galleria lies a decorated marble floor, and on one section of the floor is a bull where it is said by local legend that good luck will go to those who place the heel of the shoe on the bull's testicles and spin around. So, of course we did it (VIDEO: Marek, Me).

That section of floor was worn down to make a crevice about 3-4 inches deep. The tradition we'd heard about from Rick Steeves was real. We had written on our itinerary to accomplish 3 things the first day/night: visit Duomo (we wanted to take the rooftop tour 300' off the ground, but it was too late in the evening for tickets), walk through the Galleria and then visit a district named Navigli.

Before we headed out though, Marek got to play with rabbid birds!
Marek getting diseases from pigeons

We decided this trip to not have international data service. We would only get on our phones to check emails, etc when we would be resting at our hotels when free wifi was available. It was a grand plan, however, I can't tell you how important it is to have Google Maps available at a moments notice. GPS tells you exactly where in the map you are (and with Italy's thousands of tiny streets that is VERY helpful). It also tells you how far of a walk it is or how long a taxi ride would take and even public transit directions and durations from/to any given point. HAVE A DATA PACKAGE. We wondered into a small info/tourist shop and sort of cheated by looking on their map (that was there for us to purchase for $4) and saw that the Navigli District appeared to be about a 20-25 min walk and was just passed where our apartment was. We were not ready to walk that far. We found a taxi waiting and headed south to the Navigli.

Turns out, it was at the bottom of our street (where our AirBNB apartment was). This was great because we knew it was going to be a short walk back to the room. It was about 8:00pm and restaurants were just now starting to open up for dinner. Clearly we were out too early in comparison to the locals, but we were jet-lagged and fighting unconsciousness in the spirit of an adventurous vacation.

We found a pizzeria and ordered beer and a Quattro Formaggi (4 cheese) pizza. The waiter knew we were American and told us he would have the chef cut it into slices instead of the Italian way of just giving us the whole pie with a knife/fork. I wanted to eat with knife/fork like Italians do, but I was too tired to argue, especially knowing I didn't know how to say in Italian what I wanted to and he didn't know English enough to understand my native tongue...sliced pizza I would receive. After pizza, we tried to stick it out a bit later. We REALLY tried. The "life" of Navigli came to be around 9:30pm but we were no longer in the mood to stay out.

My to-go box in the Navigli District

We found a quaint place off to the side to have one last quiet drink before heading back home (don't worry, we were drinking water each day of our trip in between meals). The beer was had and memories were made, but we knew how much a long sleep was needed to get us on the right track to feel more energized and our legs/feet from giving up on us.

More Photos:
Fun with English
True story: We spent hours trying to come up with this guy's name
- since we didn't have internet to just look it up.
R.I.P. Gary Coleman
Duomo Door

Duomo Floor

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Our Summer Trip to Italy - Day 1.5, Aug. 27/28, 2014

(This is uploaded 3 months after the trip was taken, but written throughout the trip. This first entry is day 1.5 of our 11-ish day trip to Italy. During this trip you will read about and see our adventures to NYC, Milan, Lake Como, all 5 (6) towns of Cinque Terre and finally Florence. The trip began on the evening of Wednesday, August 27. Enjoy!) 

The trip started for me when I walked into the house with arms raised in triumph because I actually left work on time. Tristan (brother) was called ahead of time to ensure a ride through Lyft/Uber would be available for us, and of course it was. Nothing exciting about our flights to Chicago and then on to Newark, but it is always shocking to me how long it takes to get anywhere n NYC when you start from Newark (took about 1.5 hrs to arrive at the destination).

We stayed at our friend (ex-OKCer) Johnny Mac's apartment, which was the first stop across the East River in Brooklyn. Our flight landed around 8:30pm so we headed straight to his apartment where he met us outside with hellos and hugs. We put our bags down (just brought back packs and one shared small bag for mainly chargers, toiletries and the camera). We headed out into his neighborhood and walked around the corner and found a crowded/noisy bar and immediately knew we wanted a quieter place. 100 yards away was another small bar that had an amazing vintage atmosphere with custom curved bar. They specialized in mixed drinks so Marek and JMac both got something I can't pronounce and I stuck with a random local IPA. After one drink and some great conversation and catching up, we headed back to the apartment for some much needed rest.

We woke up/got up pretty late (around 10am) and headed to a breakfast place JMac recommended. It was a small hipster/organic place about 15 min walk south from his apartment called "5 Leaves." The food was tremendous, but I stuck with the basics only ordering 3 different sides: thick bacon, over-medium (cage free) eggs and some hash brown bricks. Marek got some sort of egg-scrambled sandwich with sage...I think she was jealous of my bacon. That's one of those "we were meant for each other" things as her favorite part about bacon is the fat (mine is the meat so we split it) and she doesn't like the yolk in eggs and that's my favorite part. Anyway.

After breakfast, we took the subway to downtown Manhattan to go see the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial. The last time we were here, the tower was still being built. The museum had a really long wait, and the $25 entry fee to the museum was the turning point into us saying, "We'll do it some other time." No sense in going over our budget on the first day.

We left downtown and headed up to Central Park East to see the Guggenheim (which I had never seen) - FYI, the museum is closed every Thursday. Today is Thursday. Well, the building looks pretty.

Crossing over a couple blocks to Central Park and beginning at the lake. It's always incredible thinking about how much space and real estate on Manhattan was dedicated for this park. We began our walk around the track clockwise. No reason - probably looked to have the most shade. Turns out that we were heading in the wrong direction as one disgruntled senior citizen out for her afternoon stroll strongly pointed out to us. At this point it was kind of too late. We were already halfway around to our destination (West side) and there really wasn't a place to exit the track as it is elevated about 20 feet with a steep ropes off hill down to another track. Sorry 'bout you old lady. We're going to finish our walk.

Arriving to the other side we begin looking for a place to grab a beer (our theme throughout the trip) as well as looking for a spot to eat lunch - first stop however, find a place to buy band-aids. Marek's new shoes worn without socks were not made for walking.

Band-aids found. Using Yelp we see a place with a high rating in our price range (we try to stick in the $10-15 per meal range, but if you're in NYC/Europe and you're not eating out of a food cart it can be difficult. Turns out the place is incredible, "Jacob's Pickles." I ordered the Fried Chicken and Bacon Pancakes. They were as delicious as it sounds. Two enormous pancakes with bacon chunks cooked in and a piece of boneless fried chicken atop each pancake. I only managed to eat half a pancake but took down both pieces of chicken. Marek had Biscuits and Fixings, which consisted of homemade biscuits with multiple amazing jams/butters. These two entrees along with our two beers meant this restaurant was well deserving of the 4.5 stats it had on Yelp.

We decide to go ahead and make plans with JMac to see if he will have time to eat dinner with us before we head to the airport later on. We decide on a pizza place near his house named Paulie Gee's (inside view). Of course we're good for pizza. But we aren't finished with Manhattan yet. Considering we were pretty close to the Hudson River at this point (71st and Amsterdam area), Marek wanted to go check out Riverside Drive. We headed over there and quickly realize that we are already sort of tired from walking/standing (about 4 hours on our feet so far) and with a ten-day walking day ahead of us we decide not to push it too much more.

After we found Riverside Drive and took a 15min break by sitting on an enormous boulder in the park that seemed seldom used by anyone other than homeless people and those looking to break beer bottles, we started to head back.

We stopped after a 15min walk and stumbled into an Irish Pub on Broadway for a beer and then headed on the subway back to JMacs. I took a very needed shower/changed and we took a small nap.

We headed out around 6:00 to meet JMac knowing we were going to be a few minutes early (he estimated he would be in around 6:30). We needed to be on a bus to the airport around 7:30-7:35 to begin the 45min journey to JFK to be there plenty of time before our 10:20pm flight to Milan. JMac texted me and told me that because it was a holiday weekend (Labor Day) that it may take up to an hour to get there, so we adjusted our departure from Paulie Gee's up to 7:15, which meant ordering the pizza before JMac got there - just to be safe. Turns out it took him awhile longer to reach us due to traffic (he got his first NYC car today from his client- Mercedes. He's such a baller). Anyway, JMac didn't get to Paulie Gee's until 7:05, which meant we had 10 min to chat and head out. The pizza was incredible, and since JMac is a vegetarian, we ordered his pizza'a Soppresata (spicy salami) on the side and put it on our pizza - we win!

Got to the airport and boarded our flight with airliner Emirates. Let me tell you, this airline knows what it's doing. This was my 8th overseas flight and none was more pleasant than this. I did start out 0-2 on choosing movies to watch our personal touch TV screens (this is after the stewardess handed out warm moist hand towels and offered free alcoholic drinks to the passengers - along with dinner...which I didn't eat because I wasn't hungry but it looked good). The two movies I started out with were Transcendence with Johnny Depp. It was terrible. I turned it off after 20 min. Then I put on Captain America. It was nearly worse and I turned it off after 15 min. My third movie was a winner - The Dallas Buyer's Club. The acting by Matthew McConaughey and Jarred Leto was absolutely incredible. I watched the whole thing then passed out for the remainder of the flight (about 3 hours). That's pretty rare. Marek did not sleep much and we were both pretty cranky when we landed (noon), while trying to be excited.

We eventually found the airport train we needed to get us into Milan central. We arrived and went straight to meet our AirBNB hosts. They were an extremely nice couple - trying their very best to use the English they knew to carry on a conversation. I don't think they realized how tired we were. I didn't really have energy to carry on polite conversation for very long. I needed sleep, pronto. They left, we slept. Grazie.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Online Marketing - More Than Banner Ads

The 90s and early part of this century saw a wild-west of advertising plaguing websites. "CLICK THIS"and "SECRET TIPS TO..." flooded the internet (and frankly still do in many cases). Response rates in the past 20 years have plummeted to almost approx. 0.02% of people taking action/clicking on ads - and probably many of those were by mistake.

Terrible Banner Ads

In the past few years we have seen a shift in online marketing primarily through re-marketing/re-targeting with the help of cookies - and advertising options as a whole have gotten much better, however, far too few companies actually jump onboard...and that is mind-boggling to me.

We are getting to a point in online advertising where the paid ads that we see - we are seeing for a reason. Not just because we happen to be between 25-54 years old. Not just because we happen to not fast forward a commercial. We are seeing them because we have made an action - and that signifies our true buying potential.

Are you really a potential buyer of a new Subaru because you're between 21-45? No, but you are if you Google "Subaru" "Impreza" "Tribeka" or "WRX." You are more likely a potential buyer if you want to follow a Subaru Facebook page. You are a potential buyer if you tweet "OMG I totes heart the Subaru Crosstrek!" It's these people that Subaru will spend their dollars on. Sure, they'll buy the occasional mass media ad - but dollar per dollar / dollar per actual targeted demo, it's hard to get more targeted than showing a Subaru ad to someone you know is already interested in that brand. How much does targeting someone this specific cost? Impression per impression, about the same.

Let's take it a step further.

Sure, if you click on an ad or Google a certain brand, you'll probably see that brand's ad online in random places all over the internet for the next couple weeks (if they company is smart) - but what about Facebook? You know, that space where you and your friends/family come together and talk about cats and babies. That space right in the middle ("Newsfeed") where the eye naturally scrolls...not the random sidebar ads or blinking flash ads that your eyes try to avoid. We are talking about that place down the center that the potential customer can't avoid.

What you don't want to do in this space is piss off a potential buyer with all caps about your 10% savings. No, this place is sacred for your audience. You're sticking your head into the huddle of their friends-only conversations - what are you saying to them? What are you showing them? Do they want to see your sales message? As a whole, no they don't. But what if you were certain that they wouldn't mind seeing your product. What if you had proof that they've recently checked out your product recently - yet they didn't buy it just yet...they went away to think about it. Let me show you what I mean.

I get tons of emails that I constantly have to unsubscribe to because I don't want the crap they yelling at me to buy. There are a few emails that I occasionally open and browse around if I have a few minutes - and one of those email subscriptions is from Fab makes their emails "bite-sized" and easy for me to navigate - easy for me to quickly see a few products and either move on and wait for the next email or take an action and actually consider buying something.

Recently, I opened an email and something caught my eye. It was a colorful world map that I thought looked pretty cool. I opened the link to enlarge the image to get a better look. I sent a screenshot onto Marek (my wife) to get her opinion. Then I went on with my day. Had I a few more minutes - I may have purchased it right then and there, but I wanted to think about it. Similar to many of you, I always intend on remembering everything, but sometimes I need to be refreshed every once in awhile.

Now, here's where it gets creepy/cool depending on your perspective. obviously knows my email address (and many of you have email lists of your current buyers/shoppers/fans). knows that user (my email address) clicked and opened the email housing an image (color map) which led to their website. Their website then kept data on what I did on their site...and their website "dinged" my exit when I got to the "pay site." Their website now knows that user (Casey) was interested enough in our brand to open the email - interested enough in a product (color map) to make an action (clicking), and interested enough to go all the way to the pay section of that product...but more importantly they know one action I didn't make - the option to purchase.

What did do from there? They loaded my email info into Facebook's database - and Facebook notices that the same email I use for Fab's email chain is the same email I use to login to Facebook...and that's it. Fab now knows that if they want to show an ad on Facebook about their product that they could simply run ads to everyone on Facebook between 22-40 and hope one of them likes to travel and may be interested in a world map...or they could just show the person they absolutely, without a doubt know is already somewhat interested...paying approx. the same per impression, don't you think this form of advertising would yield higher than 0.02% click-rate?

I love smart marketing.

Social Media Director
VI Marketing and Branding

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Apple, complacent with not being innovative

The iPhone launched in 2007 - A year that saw MySpace still ruling Social, Kevin Durant a Freshman at Texas University and the New Orleans Hornets still calling Oklahoma City home.

Since that time: MySpace died. Kevin Durant became a worldwide superstar and the Oklahoma City/New Orleans Hornets moved back to New Orleans, making way for the Seattle SuperSonics to move to the Midwest. But what about the iPhone? It just released newer models, 2, 3, 3s, 4, 4s, 5 and the 5s. Sure Apple made other products like a bigger iPhone they named the iPad (and the technology gasped) and then released newer models, 2, 3, 4, iPad Air and then two Mini-iPads which is the middle ground between the iPhone and the iPad... so very clever. Not creative, but clever. Clever in the sense that you bought one or three...possibly four or five of these mentioned. Apple "cleverly" took the world by storm, but these past few years (due to the lack of innovation) Apple has just sat back and watched as Google passed them by.

Sure, here in the Oklahoma City market, we love Apple and rarely will one find an Android cellular device before you'll see 10 iPhones - but Apple has been a sleeping giant that stayed in hibernation too long.

Google's Android devices have far surpassed those iOS devices, in fact the past 3 years Android went from 49.2% of the market in 2011 to 62% in 2012 and up to 78.6% in 2013 - while Apple went from 18.8% in 2011, down slightly to 18.7% and even further in 2013 to 15.2%. You would think that would make Google smile and "coast" into world dominance, right? Nope. They aren't finished being "innovative" yet.

Google is betting that you'll use your smart device as much or even more in the future, they just want to control how you use it. 2014 seems to be the year Google goes all out launching "Wearables" for the public. Think watches are a thing of the past? Maybe, in the sense that you used it primarily to tell time. Now, you can use for just about anything, at least that's what they're hoping according to this new online commercial:

Google Glass still has a LONG way to go. I've put on a few different pairs over the past 12-18 months - and they have become much better over time. But only time will tell whether or not they're here to last. While Apple lives in the land of Texas-Freshman Kevin Durant, it is Google that is living in the land of OKC-Thunder-World-Champion Kevin Durant.

What do YOU think? Do you see yourself wearing "Wearables" in the near future? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Education System Woes

I can't imagine how dumb our next generation would be if the Internet did not exist. With the many restrictions on our school systems, rising student/per teacher ratios and lowering budgets on education - we are also seeing dramatic rises in college tuition but a lowering in salaries in regards to inflation (going back 50 years).

Because of all this, students have less one-on-one time with teachers, teachers don't get paid enough to care (unions keep many employed anyway), and the restrictions on what can/can't be taught in school is so limited that there is little time left for creative thought or communications building amongst peers. Even if students do make it out of school (with less knowledge than previous generations) they head into college where the average cost of a 4-year university has doubled (in just the past 15 years, meaning more students are going in debt for higher amounts just to obtain a degree for them to stand in line with the other students who now have an overpriced/under-delivered education - where many now have degrees in dying industries.

So again, I go back to my original statement. the Internet may just be saving our next generation. People are free to learn what they want/when they want it, all for the price of $39 a month.

Do I think the Internet is better than one-on-one learning? Absolutely not. But if we don't stop this decline of our standards in our Education system, it may turn out that way.

(Do I have a solution? No. But isn't that why we pay our Congressmen/Legislators?)