Thursday, December 18, 2014

April 2013: Tour of Honor Saddlesore 1,000 Extreme

With Nikki's prompting, I took a wander around Kansas in April of 2013 and seemed to have picked up all 7 Tour of Honor sites, pending approval. While I was riding, I went ahead and got receipts and stuff; turned out to be around 1,040 miles round trip and took right at 23 hours - that qualifies for an Iron Butt Association Saddle Sore ride.  Combine them both and it's a Saddlesore Extreme.
The Tour of Honor is a Summer long grand tour, where you ride and take photos of your motorcycle with various memorials to veterans, police and other service organizations. If you get 7 sites in any combination, you're  a 'finisher'.

I Rolled out on the stock CBR at 11:20 AM from Overland Park, KS. Rode out to Ft. Riley, Abiline KS, then Colby KS on I70. That was a *push*, keeping up with traffic, uphill into a headwind. One of the best memories was on I-70.  I'm flat out redlined, laying down on the tank, going downhill.  At the bottom of the hill, there was a highway patrolman.  I sat up, never let off the throttle and waved - I was turning 10,000 RPM and making 74MPH.  He looked at me, looked at his radar gun and just shook his head.  I can only imagine what he was thinking!

Colby at Sunset was gorgeous - unfortunately no good photos.  Abiline was a fantastic town and I can't wait to go back and explore more.

After Colby, I turned South to Sublette, KS then back East across US160 in the dark to Anthony KS. From there up to Wichita, over to Girrard KS and back to Overland Park by 10:20 AM on Sunday.

1040 odo miles, 23 hours should qualify for the Saddlesore, and I've been listed as a finisher on the Tour of Honor site. Now, what to do next weekend?

A few photos:

Loaded up for the start. Fieldsheer Eiffel tank bag, Tourmaster Cortech tailbag. Beadrider seat beads.

Loaded up and ready to go. by kcsporttour, on Flickr

Exactly 2,000 miles at the start of the ride:

Rolled over 2,000 miles at the start of the SS1K by kcsporttour, on Flickr

M65 Atomic Cannon over Ft. Riley, KS

2013_284_M65 Cannon at Ft Riley 2 by kcsporttour, on Flickr

On I-70 Westbound:

Road Shots are Fun by kcsporttour, on Flickr

Buffalo Bill Statue near Oakley, KS by kcsporttour, on Flickr

2013_284_Anthony KS 1 by kcsporttour, on Flickr

Really cool helicopter in Girard, KS.

2013_284 Girard by kcsporttour, on Flickr

1040 miles later, back in Overland Park, KS

Final milage - 1040 miles, 23 hours and 1 minute. by kcsporttour, on Flickr

The Map:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sharp Aquos Crystal First Impressions

As part of the Sprint Product Ambassador team, I have the opportunity to try out new phones from time to time and blog about them.  Usually it's something new and cutting edge - this time though, it's the Sharp Aquos Crystal.  Quietly released by Sprint in October, this interesting handset design from a non-typical Android company is a pleasant surprise.

With a 5" bezel-less screen running 720p resolution, the phone is a full size midrange value.  The Aquos has a very clean, excutive appearance, free from extraneous branding.  From looking at it, you would think 'Seiko', not 'Sharp'.

What's in the box?  The usual phone and charger - a basic 800ma brick, suitable for your phone, but not reusable for tablets or other big battery devices.  No headphones are included.

The Aquos has a removable back panel for access to the SIM card (included) and a MicroSD slot capable of supporting up to 128GB chips, but unusually, a fixed 2040mA battery. The back panel has a fine pebbled texture for improved feel and grip.

Once it's activated, we'll test out the Harman Kardon sound and patented Clari-Fi™ technology. Sharp (or Harman) claims that the Clari-Fi technology restores compressed digital music to "its full glory for crisper, wider and more dynamic audio through your headphones or accessories."   We'll see how that works out with standard lossy MP3 files -- I should still have some low-bit rate 128 files somewhere . . .

The Aquos supports the latest LTE band aggregation (Sprint Spark) so it should offer great download speeds and long battery life in upgraded Sprint markets.  With Bluetooth 4.0, it should also provide great connections to both my calling headset (Plantronics Voyager) and my music headset (Moto Buds).

For calls, the Aquos uses a 'Direct Wave Receiver' - since it has no bezel, it has no where to put the typical speaker for the handset.  Essentially, it vibrates the entire display area for calls.  Early reports show a less than stellar sound quality, but I'll mostly be using a bluetooth headset, so not a huge factor for me.

Wrapping up the first look at the handset, you'll find the USB port on the bottom, with the volume rocker on the left side.  On top is both the 3.5mm headset jack and power button.

“Disclaimer: The Product Ambassadors are Sprint employees from many different parts of the company that love technology. They volunteer to test out all sorts of Sprint devices and offer opinions freely to the Community. Each Product Ambassador shares their own opinions of these devices, therefore the information in this post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprint. The PA's do not represent the company in an official way, and should not be expected to respond in an official capacity. #sprintemployee.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Only Lighthouse in Kansas

Kansas has a lighthouse?  In the middle of flyover country?  Ah yup!  Just a few miles North of us, where I-635 crosses the Missouri River, you can find a lighthouse guarding the Kansas Water Intake.  I found it while researching photo tags for a motorcycle tag game.  No way to get your motorcycle in the photo, but I've always wanted to get some photos.  Today, I was on the way back from Parkville, picking Robyn up from her Venturing Leadership program, and we stopped to hike in to the river and take some photos. You can't get near the lighthouse on the Kansas side - all fenced off by the KS Bureau of Public Utilities.  But you supposedly can get some nice shots from the Missouri side of the river, where  there's public trails.

We had an hour before sundown, so we pulled out at the levy and set across the tall grass to find the bank of the Missouri River and get a few photos of the lighthouse.   Success!  Robyn made a walking stick and we bushwacked to the river!

We'd found out about the lighthouse originally from the Lighthouses of the US directory, which lists it as the Missouri River Lighthouse, Kansas City Water Intake, lighthouse USCG 5-19505.   It's owned by the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities.  The Directory notes it's still active, although we did not see any lights while photographing it.  A close crop shows it in need of repair and paint; it may have been decommissioned since the directory was last updated:

Perhaps tomorrow I'll get back out with some longer glass and get better detail shots of the lighthouse!

Friday, November 21, 2014

$5 Cell Phone. For life.

Sprint just dropped a "Go Big or Go Home" offer - three rewards for existing customers including unlimited voice minutes on your current plan, a $5 a month phone lease and a free year of service for new lines activated on your account.  Pretty cool - but when you dig into the FAQ you find the real bomb - that $5 phone lease is good forever.  You'll get a $15/month credit toward your lease payment as long as you keep leasing a phone from Sprint on a qualifying plan.  No more $200 biannual replacement costs.  Just drop the phone off at the Sprint store, pick up a new latest model phone, and it's still just $5 a month.

What happens to my $15 Loyalty Service Credit at the end of 24 months?As long as you have an active lease and remain on a qualifying plan, you will continue receive your Loyalty Service Credit.

$5 / month handset cost.  For life.  Someone just changed the game.  And listened to our current customers who've been begging for some rewards for staying with Sprint.  Now you're getting the best deal in the game.

Appears to apply to the hottest two phones - the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S5 Sport.  I'd imagine it will expand to other 'iconic' devices in the future.

ObDisclaimer - I'm a Sprint employee, I work for them I don't speak for them.  And they didn't pay me to write this.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Motorola Buds Bluetooth Headset Review

As a Sprint Product Ambassador, I received a set of high end Bluetooth headphones, the Motorola Buds, to try out.  Juvenile drug references aside, these should be some of my new favorite headphones for music and online radio listening.   With their around the neck design, they move the weight and bulk off your ears or head down to your collar.  Only the ear piece comes up to your ear.  I've been using Bluetooth Stereo earphones since the Motorola M9 series, graduating to the Altec Lansing Backbeat 9xx from Plantronics, and now to the Moto Buds. Normally, I'll listen to music at the desk over my Grado SR-60's or Sennheiser studio earphones.  I'm kind of a bigot about sound quality and noise isolation.

Unboxing and Intro

In the box, you find a simple frustration free package consisting of the headphones, a USB dongle and a ‘get started’ guide.  The ear tips are noise-isolating rubber, and three (small, medium and larger) are included in the package.  They recommend charging the headphones before use, but with no charger, how do you do that?  Fortunately, the USB port is standards compliant, allowing you to repurpose your existing phone charger, tablet charger or a spare USB charger you have around.  The short dongle could work in a pinch too.

Pairing is as simple as holding the rear power button until the status light flashes blue.  Within a few seconds of finishing charging, I had the Buds paired to my LG G3 Vigor and playing streaming music off my Amazon library.  Sound quality is clean and clear and they play nearly loud enough to satisfy a live music fan like me.  Comfort is excellent, no weight or bulk on your ears and no heavy wires wrapping around your head.  Both the Moto M9 and the Altec headphones had weight and bulk problems. These fit the bill for comfortable all day headphones!

Standby Time

Life got in the way and I forgot to use the Motorola Buds for the past couple days.  Really, about three weeks now!  Man, time flies. Even better, I'd left them powered up in the cabinet.

I'd fully charged them and played music over them for about an hour, then let them sit in the cabinet.  Fired them back up today, pressed and held both volume buttons and got a voice report that it still had over 4 hours playback time!  That's the kind of standby time I like!

Bluetooth Range

A lot has been discussed about how the Motorola Buds are a 'Class 1' Bluetooth device, giving a theoretical range of 150 feet, compared to the typical 30 to 40 feet of a regular Bluetooth headset.  In the office, I've paired them with both the LG G3 Vigor and an older Samsung S3.  With the Vigor, I got about 140 feet away before dropping music; with the older S3, I got about 120 feet away.  This is in typical cube land with metal cube walls and high RF noise levels from phones, other BT devices and ubiquitous WiFi.

Really amazing range on the Buds!

Microphone and Call Quality

The microphone on the Motorola Buds is located on the left arm, on the inside.  It's a small black slot.  It's an interesting design choice - where do you put the microphone on an around the neck headset?

On my old Plantronics Altec Lansing Backbeat headset, the microphone was located on the edge of one of the ear pieces - and was constantly getting blocked by my oversized ears, causing muffled sound.  With the microphone on the collar piece of the Buds, it should pick up your voice more clearly.

In reality, it's quite variable in performance.  If you are moving around, the collar piece will rub against your clothing, causing interesting sounds to be broadcast on your conference call.  If you're facing to the right or leaning back while speaking, your voice becomes distant.  In typical use, facing straight ahead with little movement, the sound quality is acceptable.   For improved quality, just be sure no clothing is blocking the microphone.  Additionally, you can lift up the left arm of the headset ensuring the mic is closer to your mouth.

I've read some cautions from folks who like to wear the Buds under their collar to conceal them more -- this will block the microphone and cause poor audio quality on calls. 

This headset isn't designed for the conference call road warrior, but it has acceptable voice performance with the collar mounted microphone.


The Motorola Buds are more comfortable with acceptable sound quality than any prior bluetooth stereo headphones.  They offer great range and excellent battery life.  They suffer from the same audio pickup problems as most stereo headphones without a dedicated mic.  I'll keep my Plantronics Voyager Pro for conference calls, but I'm wearing my Buds every day rockin out to Moby and NPR.  You can purchase the Motorola Buds from for $69.

Disclaimer: The Product Ambassadors are Sprint employees from many different parts of the company that love technology. They volunteer to test out all sorts of Sprint devices and offer opinions freely to the Community. Each Product Ambassador shares their own opinions of these devices, therefore the information in this post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprint. The PAs do not represent the company in an official way, and should not be expected to respond to Community members in an official capacity. #sprintemployee.  I was not compensated in any way for this post other than the use of the device.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pack 3094 Cub Scouting

While I've been busy starting a flame war on Facebook, my dear wife has been updating our Cub Scout Pack page making it more logical, better to read and more relevant information.  Thank you love!

How to lose weight

Someone was asking for gym and personal trainer advice to drop the 100 pounds she had gained over the past year.  (!!).  I posted the following.  Not particularly 'nice', nor did it answer her request for a 'personal trainer on a budget', but this is my world, or how I lost 50 pounds in the last couple years.

Step one. 1200 calorie diet. Mostly protein and raw veg.

Step two. Move. Breathe. Move more.

(Get the old Susan Powter book, Eat, Breathe Move. It's pretty good fundamentals.  It's also a penny on Amazon. No, not an affiliate link)

Did I mention move? Move a lot. All day. Every day. Anything. Walk. Stairs. Pick up a milk jug. Pick up two milk jugs. (don't drink the milk).

Coffee is a fantastic appetite suppressant. No cream, no sugar. Just black coffee, 3 -4x a day.

Source: Jason Ferrugia, my personal 50 pound weight loss, Susan Powter, etc.

Number one key is the healthy diet. Avoid starches. Avoid Empty calories. Organic meat, nuts, raw veg, green leafy veg is king. Brown rice. Stuff that is "low glycemic index" - look it up. But count those calories. You'll burn 2400 just sitting around, but you have to eat far less to drop weight. If you can maintain a 1200 calorie diet you'll drop a pound every 3 days. the more you move, the more you'll drop.

Yes, you will be F***ing hungry. All the time. Get used to it. Move more. Drink another cup of black coffee and move something. Rearrange the kitchen. Move. Move. Move. Move. You won't sleep much. You'll be too hungry. Tough. Get up and move something. And drink some water. Yes you hurt. Tough. Move. Walk to the end of the block. Or the end of the hallway. Do what you can do. But move.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rating Retail Stores

Retail stores are the key touchpoint for  customers.  As the holiday season comes up, customers are going to be looking for your store.  But, first, they have to find the store.  To that, they'll either turn to Google, or visit your site and try to use the store locator.  In most markets, they'll have a choice of which store to visit.  You want them to have the most information and information they trust.  Consumers trust the opinions of their peers more than paid advertising - 70% vs 40%!  Google displays store reviews inline with their search results, along with your competitors stores!  Does your store locator site help the customer find the information they need?

To help drive customer decisions and traffic to stores,  you need to engage the community sentiment and provide the openness and transparency by displaying store reviews in your Store Locator application.  By providing customer review information, your stores can help to increase loyalty, increase traffic and identify opportunities for improvement.

To encourage new customers to buy from you, you need people through your doors.  Retail stores no longer provide the lifelong relationship of our grandparent’s era. So how do you get prospect into a physical store? Social is still the answer. User-generated content from real consumers is a way to attract the online shopper to your brand of product offerings [Bazzarvoice, 2014].  71% of people read online reviews before making a purchase decision - simply put, you need to enable our customers and prospects to get the information they want on our site.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Management Game

Recently, I was invited to play the Management Game, imported from our new corporate owners, Softbank.  What is the Management game?  In 1976, Sony CDI developed a kind of business game called the Management Game. The game simulates running a business, with each participant as a manager. Softbank adopted the game from Sony, and updated it with modern technology.

A group of five to seven people gather to play, each with their own 'factory' and a limited set of resources to drive their factory.  You begin as in most games, by drawing a card.  The card drives your action that turn - make a decision to buy, sell, research, hire or expand, or is a 'risk' card, draining off resources and time.

Originally, the game required all transactions to be manually tracked, forcing the participants to develop a high degree of accounting skills and understanding of the information behind a business.  The Softbank update uses iPads to handle the transactions and accounting, allowing the gamers to focus more on strategy and game theory.  In the 1980s, US executives would pay $500 a head for a multi-day seminar where one single game would be completed, representing a 5 year run for their factory.  Today, we completed all 5 years in about 5 hours, including training and reviewing results.

While difficult to learn in the first round with a compressed schedule, the Management game is a fantastic tool for reviewing the 'big picture' of business, from supply to capacity to the value of research and development.  We all enjoyed getting a chance to lift our eyes from our day to day siloed workflow and take a moment to try to understand all of the parts of running a business.

Strategy is key in the Management game - risks are part of succeeding.  Heavily leveraging your business early in pays off well; you have higher access to capital early in the game, and the interest rates are low, creating little penalty for carrying high debt loads.  Two strategies successfully used in our session were high R&D investment, reducing the cost of your goods on the market, and high sales force investment, allowing you to sell more goods than the other players, due to some oddities in the rules.

The rules don't always reflect real world conditions in markets and business, but they do allow you to see  how game strategy works in running a business.  Win or lose, there are certain rules and values you play by in a business, and maximizing your advantage by the rules will maximize your profit in the business.

A further overview of the game is presented at, a Tokyo based news video site:

- Will England, October 2014

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Scouting for Scouts

Last week was filled with public speaking engagements. I was scheduled to speak at 3 school night for scouting events. This is where we get up in front of brand new parents and brand new kids who've never heard of scouting or might have a little bit of Scouting background. We explained to them about the Cub Scout program, encourage them to sign their children up for Cub Scouting and even more, encourage them to sign up as a leaders to help their kids excel in the program.

I never really felt that I was "on"  at any of the presentations. I did my best. I explained scouting.  I explained my passion. But I never really felt on. We still had a hundred percent of the parents present sign their kids up for scouting. 15 new scouts were recruited through my efforts. It was a stressful week and I'm not quite sure why I didn't deliver what I feel is my best.

For some reason, I felt restrained or constrained and didn't really rock out. Well anyway this was my first year doing school night for scouting presentation. Perhaps next year I'll do a little bit better.

I've always wanted the chance to do public speaking presentation and public sales like this. I like it, it makes me feel good, although it does take a ton of energy. Having an introvert get up in front of 20, 30, 40 people is really something different. But I like that Rockstar feeling. Maybe I'm a closet rockstar, just like I'm a  closet Type A personality. :-)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Giving back - Boy Scouts and Social Media

All these years of working in Social Media, I've been trying to learn more about the best practices, best way to run a social site,  how to engage the audience and really communicate.   Well,  now I've got a chance to pay back - I've been selected to help build the social presence for the Trailhead District of the Heart of America Council of the Boy Scouts of America.  I'll be an editor and helping drive their social presence starting with the Facebook page for Heart of America Trailhead District.

We've got some challenges, starting with having both a page and a personal profile.  That should be easy enough to fix.  After that will be developing a content strategy and driving engagement with the page.

We'll need events and activities, photos and videos from what we're doing. It's an interesting challenge,  not only from an engagement point of view, but from a management position.  I don't know the brand or legal restrictions,  and as a volunteer, I'm limited to evenings, weekends and the occasional lunch meetings to build relationships within the Council to educate and expand the vision of social media.

Should be a great time!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Plantronics BT-300M and the Mac!

The work laptop has been giving me fits today, so on a whim I thought I'd move the BT-300M bluetooth dongle over to my vintage 2006 Mac Book Pro.  I've got Lync 2011 installed there for teleconferences and such.

Well, much to my surprise, the BT-300M was fully recognized on the Mac, and provides full call control from the Plantronics Voyager Pro headset!  Mute, call end, call answer, everything.  Very nice news - another way to avoid using the clunky work laptop.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A personal note on SEO

A personal note on search engine optimization of your web pages. I've spent quite a few hours making sure that our Cub Scout Pack is well represented in the major search engines. If you search for Overland Park Cub Scout , our pack comes up number one in the search results in all the major engines. Tonight, it paid off. We had a new scout and parents come to our meeting who found us by searching for Cub Scouts on Google. We are able to help them join a Cub Scout Pack and build our Cub Scout Pack membership simply because I took the time follow the basic rules of search engine optimization with our Cub Scout web page. As you can tell, I'm a bit proud of this accomplishment and I'm very pleased that this band will have a chance to have their son in a great Cub Scout Pack in the future.

Today? Search challenges and Paying Attention

Today I paid attention at work.  Searched for a few things.  And found more SEO problems than I really wanted to. Pages with no machine readable content. Out of date pages so highly optimized they're still coming up in the first page of search results. I found a bunch of problems like this. I am just a Business Analyst. Its not my day job to pay attention to production issues. The first thing to do is find the stakeholders for all of these pages. Most of these changes are pretty simple. About 90 seconds maybe 2 or 3 minutes to really make the change in some of the pages. But since I'm not operations, I have to take it to the business owners to ensure that the changes I want to make are the same as their 'vision'.

So tomorrow, we meet with stakeholders and process people and more to start fixing some of these SEO issues we find on the production site.

It seems that by paying attention I've only made more work for myself and everyone else on the digital team. But the upside to paying attention will ensure the customer has a better experience and can actually find what they are looking for when they search for our new key words.

When it comes right down to it, paying attention benefits a customer. And that's what it's all about right? Taking care of what our customer needs.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What have I been doing? New Plans from Sprint!

Been off the blog all summer - heads down with Scouting and Sprint!  We've been quietly developing what I feel are some of the most outstanding plans in wireless.  We're back in the game, competing to be the best third place phone company out there!

T-Mobile has been buying gross adds (new customers) by giving away the house on their plans - $100 for 5 lines, 10 GB shared data among the lines. Pretty sweet deal, no contract, etc.

Well, now we're upping the ante.  We kicked off the Family Share Plan with a splash this week, where $100 will get you up to 10 lines, 20GB shared data, 2GB per line exclusive data. Oh yeah, and unlimited talk and text.  And that's just the start.  Our creative teams, IT teams, planning, analysts, and everyone on the Digital team has been laser focused on getting this rolled out and launched.  Fascinating and fun work when we're all driving to a great customer focused goal.

Want to find out more?  New customers to Sprint get the best deal - but existing Sprint customers can still migrate their plans (up to 4 lines) and get unlimited talk and text and 20 GB (or more) data.
Plan Grid comparing Sprint to the rest.  #DoubleIsBetter

Find out more from Sprint:

(ObDisclaimer - I work for Sprint, I do not speak for them, nor was I compensated for this post.  Just excited about the new plans!)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Plantronics Voyager Legend Blue Light Flashes 3 times - and it's Dead!

If you have one of the Plantronics Voyager Legend bluetooth and UC headset, you know how excellent it can be.  And more than likely, you've had one up and die - won't power on, won't charge, just shows the blue light flash 3 times when you plug it in.

I've had two die like that and Plantronics has been good enough to RMA them for me - great and all, but I count on my UC Bluetooth headset for work all day every day.

Today, it happened again - but this time I found a post in the Plantronics forum with detailed steps to ressurect your blue-light flashing dead Voyager Legend!

I called technical support just now! He said I need to reset it and it worked. Like this:

1. Turn off your headset.
2. Press and hold both Call and Mute buttons at the same time.
3. While pressing these buttons down, turn on your headset.
4. You should see the LED on the headset flash blue and red alternately.
5. Turn off your headset.
6. Turn it on again. You should hear the female voice giving the headset status.

Took 30 seconds or so for the red and blue lights to stop flashing and then it worked again for me!  Wanted to share this excellent tip on fixing your Plantronics Voyager Legend UC headset!


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

What I was reading this morning . . . Kanban

We were using this back in the 90’s to build airplanes; it’s now been pushed into the realm of Agile software development.  Kanban means literally ‘billboard’.  In manufacturing, each part has a Kanban card and the work stations pull parts into the work process.  Output has a card and is queued up for the next work station.  When cards run low, you order more parts.

1) Visualize what you do – make it public –  use Kanban cards, boards etc.
2) Limit what you’re working on at one time.  Less process switching creates less ‘thrashing’
3) Manage workflow through the system.  Lower WIP levels allows bottlenecks to be found.
4) Explicit and concrete policies.  You can’t improve if you don’t have clear documentation.
5) Continuous feedback throughout the process.
6) Collaborative improvement based on data and scientific testing. Small, continuous improvement, not top-down sweeping change.

For development, you let the executing teams pull cards from the work backlog, work on them without interruption, then move the card to the next lane - from design, development, testing and more.  As you see cards stacking up you can identify backlogs; visualization helps make it happen.  Very compatible with Agile development and can be used even in oldschool waterfall development.

More detailed background: 

Further reading – SCRUM vs Kanban : 

Examples of Kanban boards in Development:

Even more reading:

Fascinating stuff, really…