05 December 2007

Welcome Aidan Paul LoCicero

Born at 1:47 p.m. on Tuesday, December 4th, 2007. Aidan Paul LoCicero came into the world at 7 lbs., 5 oz. and 19 inches. WITH a full head of hair.

Mom had some problems with the anaesthesia (he came c-section) and ended up being nauseated for most of the day. Now that that's under control, it's just left to the healing from the cut.

Here's some pix of Aidan.

04 December 2007

Well, the day has come!!

This is finally it, my friends. Today is the birth of our son.

We stopped by the hospital today to meet with the anaesthesiologist to talk through what'll happen tomorrow and MK had some blood drawn to ensure they have enough standing by in case it's needed.

I'm really nervous. Not about the birth, but about MK's recovery. This IS major surgery and she's not the best with pain. But I know it'll be a massive happy day in spite of all that. It's going to be very weird to be there and watch this happen.

I honestly never thought that this day would arrive for me. If you had asked me in 2003 if I was going to get married and have a kid w/in 4 years, I would have said that you were shittin' me.

Besides my wedding day, tomorrow is going to be the happiest day in my life. I can't wait. I'm ready to be a responsible 41 year old Daddy whose son needs him for everything at this point.

I'll update tomorrow night once everyone is okay.

29 November 2007

BabyLo Update

As we get closer to "the day" it's been tougher to keep up with blogging. I'm sure once he's born, it'll still be as tough, however, I'll have plenty more drivel to write about.

So we're in the 38th week and as of the Doctor's appointment this week, we know that if BabyLo doesn't arrive by Monday, December 3rd, than he's being bounced from the "Womb" night club on December 4th.

We did finally decide on a name this past Saturday. Actually, Mary Kay and I were in a baby-type store and she picked up 5 letters that spelled out his name. These would be those wood letters one would hang on the wall of a child's room. She asked me "How about these"? and I reacted funny because it spelled out the name that I had chosen.

I'm floored really. I'm so excited that I'm ready to burst at the seams. (and big seams they are). I really can't wait until he arrives. My life will be consumed with making sure he has everything he needs and that he has a great life.

13 November 2007

If you hit me over the head, I have a right to fight back

Okay. I work in the "advertising" business, albeit the Market Research part of it, but part of our company's work is pre-testing commercials before they go on air. The primary action points of that process are to give the client feedback on how well the commercial was branded, whether it was even memorable and if the intended main message can cut through the clutter of all the other stuff people watch.

So, I do believe I can speak to this matter effectively.

Dear Citibank,

Since you've decided to run 200,000,000 GRP's worth of your latest campaign and I see it every time I turn on the t.v., I feel it only fair for me to now pick apart the commercial. If a man and his son take a trip to Norway, enjoy the sights, eat funky food, and buy sweaters, how is it that if they go to the "hall of records" they can find out they are actually Swedish? The last time I checked, the "hall of records" should just tell them if they are either Norwegian or not. Is there some funky cool cross-reference library in the Scandinavian world that lets you find out your full heritage from within one specific country?

A Market Researcher.

So what have we learned here? a) Their commercial is sufficiently branded, however, I'm not sure if it truly is, or, if the simple fact of it running 2000 times a day just hits me over the head so much, I can't forget it. b) If you do hit me over the head so much, I reserve my right to pick your :30 apart second by painful second.

I love my job ;-) !!!!!

"Customer Service" sucks in this country

In yet ANOTHER case of where I've experienced poor customer service, we have this:

On November 2nd, I ordered the proper mounting bracket for the new 47" Television that I bought for our new basement. My credit card was charged promptly which included $14.60 shipping (UPS Ground) and $5.00 handling by CENTRAWORLD.com who operates on behalf of Westinghouse Digital.

Recently I've noticed that from MOST vendors now, you usually get a confirmation email that has the shipping tracking number (FedEx/UPS/DHL) so that you can track where your product is. I received the confirmation email but never got the tracking number. On November 9th, I called Westinghouse/CENTRAWORLD and enquired as to the status. I was told by Carlos that my ordered was filled on the day that I placed it, but that there wasn't a tracking number in the system, which he stated was "odd". He promised me that he'd call me back later that day with the tracking number since the shipping manager was out at lunch.

No call arrived. I tried calling on Monday, November 12th, but just missed their normal business hours (darn), so I've called back today. A young gentleman gave me the number and when I went to the UPS website, I found out that my purchase hadn't even been shipped until Friday night, the 9th! (same day I called to enquire). Very intersting.

So I've called back and spoke to Ronae who is the manager. Unfortunately because it's now in transit there's not much she can do and they aren't allowed to refund shipping costs and she didn't know who I could ask about that.

Customer Service is the new "fast food" spot for everyone who dropped out of high school. I actually get better service at "fast food" restaurants now than ever before and definitely better than any place I've ordered things from on the Internet or in person.

No wonder why everyone wants to offshore this stuff to India. We are a lazy f'in country, America! Tough crap to you if you expect anything on time and correct. bleccccchhhhhhh.

04 November 2007

43 and done

When is a tradition, not a tradition? When Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame faithful decide it's not.

Four horsemen, Play like a Champion, Touchdown Jesus, all things that have been around for more than say, 20 years. Notre Dame traditions, right? But now, a 43 year win streak over Navy isn't a tradition, it's not a streak, it's irrelevant to the players and Charlie.

You cannot have it both ways no matter how you spin it. You lost after 43 years of beating Navy and now you're 1-8. You are tired of taking the heat for a crappy season and your one word, Brian Urlacher style answers are truly just disgusting for a man who makes so much money coaching a TRADITION!

Grow up Charlie, I thought you to be a much better man that this. No matter how you try to make this go away, the Notre Dame alumni and wannabes know and will remember forever this horrible season where you lost to Navy!

I wouldn't be surprised if the Athletic Department tries to find a way to drop Navy from the schedule after this. (okay, ND faithful, lighten up and take the joke!)

03 November 2007

Love Devin Hester, good ol' number 23 on the Chicago Football Bears

Words really aren't needed to describe this guy. He IS the Bears offense as of late.

This is Devin filling up this summer at a gas station in the northern suburbs of Chicago. His custom Chevy Caprice with the Louis Vuitton designer leather and skin. Good custom rims as well. A man who runs back the opening kick-off of the Superbowl SHOULD be driving a car like this.

Regaining a little faith in Customer Service

It's been an interesting week where actual service spoke for itself. Before I get into that, however, here's an update on my printer that I ordered from CompuBiz on October 1st, 2007. Our printer finally arrived on Monday the 29th. This time it arrived undamaged and is now up and running. 28 days to get a printer. The only thing that cheeses me off more than the time it took is that "Mike" who was my customer service rep (har har) wouldn't break the rules and make an exception to ship my printer next-day overnight to finalize my happiness. So it, again, was shiped FedEx ground which takes 4 days from California. Thanks for going that extra mile, Mike, to make me happy QUICKER! I'm sure you would have had to do some extra "work" to make that happen.

So on to more fun things. The guys installing my Owens Corning basement "system" have been incredibly accomodating and friendly. In fact, we have a discussion either at the end of each day or the beginning to talk through what's happening next and whether or not we have any questions or requests. I have unfortunately made the electricians move a few things more than once, but it's so damn hard to visualize how a t.v. that you haven't bought yet is going to mount on a wall that isn't there yet.

I will say that I'm very happy with this so far. Although the drawbacks on buying an Owens Corning basement "system" are the high-pressured sales tactics (really unnecessary given the name that backs this) and the fact that they just don't do any plumbing or flooring (try explaining all of this to other sub-contractors), my basement is shaping up to be one nice room addition to our house.

Here's a few shots of the basement at the conclusion of Day 06:

This is a view of the main room from the bottom of the steps.

This is a view towards our bar area from the back of the room.

This is a view of our entertainment wall. This is what I refer to as trying to envision a 47" flat-screen LCD with wires hidden and a place for all of our components.

So, that's it for this post. Boo on CompuBiz still. You sucked through this process and although I finally have my $139 printer, I could have spent that on GAS to get it quicker.

29 October 2007

Four and done

Well, that was fun. Colorado wins 21 of their last 22 (prior to the WS) and then goes 0-4. How futile does the National League look? Can't win the All-star game (which determines home field advantage...not that it would have helped) and continues to put weaker teams forward in the series. Save for the Cardinals, it's been pretty weak.

Congrats Boston. Okay, we get it, you've broken your curse. I could only hope another team could do the same (hint).

I love how they took time during the night to "break" the news that A-Rod isn't going to take his option with the Yankees. Nothing better than during a Red Sox triumph to point out that the guy that snubbed them for the Evil Empire screwed over the Yankees. Sox fans everywhere were smiling, but I bet it was from the excessive amount of alcohol in their system. I really really really hope the Cubs don't think they need him. We have him, his name is Alfonso Soriano.

28 October 2007

Technical Workshop, part deux

For the last 2 weeks I've been putting together "baby stuff" around my house. With BabyLo just 42 days away from arriving, I've been in fourth gear putting together:
  • A glider (rocking chair)
  • Stroller
  • Papasan swing
  • Pack and Play
  • Car seats
  • Nightstands

They actually are making this stuff easier to put together in the 21st century, so I really don't have too many complaints, other than some of the manuals now have to be distributed with four languages and it seems that, to save on the translations, they are just providing a lot of pictures. If they are going to do this, I strongly suggest making the pictures either bigger, OR, stop making them desktop drawings that some artist did and take actual pictures. There's been a few times I've been left scratching my head wondering what in the hell I've missed when I really haven't, I just haven't been able to see the picture very well.

I'm so frustrated with Customer Service as of late that I'd rather just struggle and step away for a minute than call an 800# to ask someone for advice. They couldn't see what I had in front of me anyway and I highly doubt they could explain to me, over the phone, what I need to do. Thsi is why I do believe that we're going to become a world of wireless computers with web cams attached. If I could show the Customer Service people what's going on, maybe they could show me back how it should go?? Just my wishful thinking.

Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey

Goodbye Colorado Rockies. Sox now up 3-0 with Game 4 this evening. I'm not sure what Colorado was thinking, but they surely aren't living up to the "Rocktober" moniker they want. I actually am impressed with Boston in this series. Everyone is hitting and like sharks, when they smell the blood in the water, the attack in a huge flurry.

Up 6-0 and letting the lead slip away allowing Colorado to score 5, they lit it up and came right back in the next inning to bury the hopes of the Rockies faithful. 10-5 final score. Done and dusted.

On another note of "goodbye", the Bears stunk to high hell today. Favored by everyone (including the idiots on the Fox pre-game), the offense didn't bother to show up. For the most part, the defense looked poor, but the Lions had massive trouble punching the ball into the endzone which is why it only ended, 16-7. The Bears, now 3-5 and headed to their bye week, can pretty much write it off. They are 1-3 in the division and so unless they can run the table, they just won't unseat the Pack or the Lions or the Vikings for a Wild Card spot this year. Benson remains uninspiring as a running back, Griese continues to under throw or over throw the receivers, Tight End Olsen seems to be the only guy willing to catch the ball and take a hit.

Humorous to me today was the fact that the NY Giants played the Miami Dolphins in Wembley Stadium. A defensive 13-10 game was played and they probably ripped up the pitch so bad that it'll need to go unplayed on until the FA Cup to recover. What the hell is the NFL thinking? The rest of the world really doesn't care about the NFL. If they did, why did the NFL fold NFL Europe after this last season. Clearly the people aren't fans, but yet, we'll still try to shove it down their throats. I guess the NFL is taking it's lead from George W. Bush and figures that if we just keep telling people the product is the best in the world and that they really really need it, they'll be stupid enough to bite. It's working well for "W". Good job Roger Goodell! I see that Buffalo is asking to play in Toronto for next year......... zzzzzzzzzz. Canada ALREADY HAS FOOTBALL you morons!

26 October 2007

Go Go Red Sox

Sox up 2-0 now. 8 days of rest, not so good for the Rockies. But frankly now, I hope the Rockies get swept. Did you hear that the Rockies were trying to trademark "Rocktober"?

Are they dense? I mean, I've been rockin' to Rocktober as part of WLUP's (97.9FM, Chicago) format for years. Before WLUP, it was WMET (94.7FM since dead and gone) or for that matter ANY FREAKIN' AOR STATION IN AMERICA!!!

Hello, maybe the mile high air is getting to those Coors Light filled brains out there, but you've got to be kidding me!

Go away Colorado. You're the latest flash-in-the-pan franchise to get to the World Series (see Arizona, Florida, the White Sox....I kid!!) but for you to have the gall to try to trademark this, means you actually believe you're going to be playing in the month of October for many years to come. You are not a dynasty, there are no more dynasties in sport. Why don't you find the next "rally monkey" and go away? Or just wear Purple shirts since that's the latest rage (even amongst NBA teams. Remember the "white hot Miami heat" fans??....yechhhhhhh)

(these views definitely reflect a bitter Cubs fan's 41 year drought of World Series appearances. If you don't like them, tough)

Good or Evil? I don't care, I like them

I realize that Google is the host of this blog and that I use Google's many services every day (search, email, etc). So this might sound like a suck-up statement, but I noticed that in the last week or so, they've upped the amount of email storage you get from 2.7GB to almost 4.4GB.

Sure I bet people can point out to me that there's 42,000 other email services that allow for more, but frankly, that's more space than I will ever need for email. I'm just thankful that they continue to increase storage. Now, if I could use that storage to back-up pictures and music, it'd get better (hint, hint)

Storage has gotten so cheap that I only spent something like $120 on 750GB and I back up my home computer once a week now off of it.

Google gets portrayed as evil sometimes. I dunno, they aren't any more evil than Bill Gates when it comes to megalomaniacal behavior.

24 October 2007

Gettin' hammered

Boston is killing Colorado tonight. 13-1 is the final score. Let's make it 4 and done, okay?

So today started day one of our basement construction project. The framing, walls, electrical, hvac, phone and cable are to be done in 15-18 days (business) so let's see how that goes. We definitely are paying enough for this first step which will leave us still without carpeting/tile and the bathroom, but we'll see how this goes.

They arrived at 7:30 this morning, had all materials loaded in within an hour and then the foreman stayed until 5:30 this evening putting in the initial studding and floor framing. Here's a picture.

The angled wall you see is where the flat screen is going to reside. This way you'll be able to see the game from any part of the basement. Where I'm standing will be the wet bar down the road. I think our main goal is to get this part done before BabyLo is born and then afterwards, we'll work on the bathroom and the bar and all the other stuff we'll need to do. You can see the air hockey table, and of course, my foosball table is down there as well.

Stay tuned. Day 1 and it's restored the little faith I have left in Customer Service (they were on time, worked quickly for the load in and worked all day to start).

Hell has frozen over, can you feel it?

Okay, so Hell hath frozen over when:
  • The Eagles got back together
  • Van Halen got back together w/DLR (but not Michael Anthony)
  • The Cubs made the playoffs in '03 and '07
  • Boston won the World Series in 2004

But now, Satan (not THIS Satan) better zip up the parka because Chicago Blackhawk home hockey games may finally be coming to a Comcast Sports Net near you. "Near you" being defined as anywhere in the 60 mile radius of Chicago proper.

Well, if Rocky Wirtz wants to try to change the support for this organization around, he's definitely firing the first shots. He has a young team who is playing some decent damn hockey as of late and NOW we might be able to see all games on TV in Chicago.

Now Rocky, you've gotten your Brother Peter to leave and you've moved Bob Pulford out of the way. People in the organization should be worried that someone is finally going to do something (for the first time since 1961) to get this franchise back to respectable fashion and hopefully back to Stanley Cup glory.

Keep up the good work, and I look forward to the changes.

23 October 2007

Customer Service (part tre)

Got a call from my buddy "Mike" at CompuBiz in Van Nuys, CA today. He said that even though they haven't received the returned printer from FedEx yet, they are going to be shipping out another one today to me.

Of course, I don't have a tracking number just yet, so I'll believe it when I see it.

22 October 2007

Customer Service (update)

So the saga with my printer and CompuBiz continues. I FINALLY got a call back from them on Friday and they let me know that when they get it back in their office, they will inspect and then determine whether or not they give me a refund or a replacement.

I let them know I'd prefer the refund. Anyway, the printer was picked up from my house on Monday the 15th, and 4+ days later it still hadn't arrived back. So these cheap-asses had it shipped back to them FedEx Ground just as they sent it to me.

Today marks 21 days since I first ordered the printer and I'm still without one. I called FedEx to chase this thing down and they told me it was scheduled to be delivered today. I'll be calling CompuBiz tomorrow if I don't hear from them. I'll let you know how it goes.

Don't forget to check out my restaurant reviews at Yelp.

15 October 2007

Customer NON Service

I think I understand why the United States economy is really just one of consumption and NOT of actual production of anything anymore. Over the last month, I've had the misfortune to deal with a lot of people in the service industry as well as the retail industry.

The service I have gotten is putrid. About four weeks ago, I took a week off of work so that I could get a lot of things done around the house prior to the arrival of "BabyLo". I had lined up a large variety of service industry professionals to come to the house to give quotes or provide services for things like finishing our basement, fixing our powder room, installing cabinets in our utility room, doing that cool textured finish on the garage floor and other types of things.

Between missed appointments, "running lates", scheduling cock-ups and every excuse known to man, only ONE of the tradesmen I worked with was on-time, billed me accurately and took the care with my house as he'd take with his. That was Bernie the plumber. Bernie earned my business for life with that.

For a week that I had perfectly scheduled out (for MY life) that left me plenty of open pockets to do errands, work on projects in the house that only _I_ could do and basically just be ME, I was left hurried and rushed to get the things done that I felt I had to get done.

This horrible service issue has continued over the last four weeks with the most recent being CompuBiz, from whom I bought a new color printer/scanner. I ordered from them because they had an excellent rating from Mysimon.com and they also had the lowest price. The printer arrived damaged (the inks had exploded within the printer and there was ink everywhere). I called and actually was responded to on the next business morning by CompuBiz. They took a day to tell me how they wanted me to ship the product back to them and then told me that FedEx would just be stopping by our house to pick it up either Wed or Thurs. Both days went by and FedEx never showed (for some reason I doubted CompuBiz because frankly, FedEx is always here when I need them to be). When I called back to CompuBiz on Thursday night, I was told that my contact there had left for the day. This was 20 minutes prior to when they supposedly closed. I asked to speak to his manager, and was rudely dumped into his voicemail. I left a nasty message and then called back because I wanted to talk to the receptionist who was rude, and instead a male answered the phone. I asked to speak to a manager and he stated that they were closed. I asked him what time they closed and he said 5:00. It was 4:50.

Americans want to know why so many companies outsource or offshore their customer service and frankly a LOT of pieces of business. It seems that service in this country has basically gone to shit, so why not go somewhere where it at least costs less and frankly is better at times. Canadians are pretty reliable people and also rather intelligent because they have education guaranteed to them. Indian people are really intelligent and when they can understand and work with the cultural differences between the US and India, they too provide amazing service at a high quality level.

Folks, if my random sampling of the service industry is any bell weather of what the rest of America is experiencing, no wonder why our economy is in the shitter.

10 October 2007

Miscellaneous post 10/10/07

I have no idea how to put a title to this post, so I'm leaving it as this generic one.

Topic 1: I've taken up restaurant review writing now as a new hobby. I've placed links here on this site and also put a nifty little graphic thingy on the lower right side. Yelp.com is a website where "real people" write reviews for restaurant or for any sort of business or service that one can use. I put "real people" in quotes because I haven't quite figured out yet if there's "professionals" lurking in here or not. There's people that have 500+ reviews. I guess that's possible, but it sure seems fishy.

Anyway, I'm gonna try this out for awhile. I would have never found this but for my friend Heidi (link to her blog to the right as well).

Topic 2: I'm actually now afraid that I'm fully over the Cubs loss (2 days total). I think the dismal performance in the desert prepped me for the eventuality back home. 2003 took me WEEKS to get over. Since the Cubs had home field advantage for the series against the Marlins, I made it to three of the four games including games six (Bartman game) and game seven, the closer. It WAS my single days and so I lived it and unfortunately died with it. It took just a little bit of my heart with it along the way. Of course the good news is always that it's also the reason I met my wife since my online ad at Match.com had the intro line, "Did the Cubs break your heart too"? Let's face it, if I ever was going to get married, it was going to have to be a girl who understood this part of me.

Topic 3: We're officially now only 60 days from the due date of "Baby Lo" and I couldn't be more excited. We were back at Babies R Us tonight to inspect the hutch and glider and had the pleasant surprise of finding out that the night stand was there also. We've also ordered the last piece which is the ottoman for the glider which is also available. Hopefully all is delivered within the next 1-2 weeks. That'll complete the baby's room and allow us to focus on other things yet to be finished. I also took the liberty of registering 2 domain names through Network Solutions. Since we are now officially down to fighting over 2 baby names, it was worth the $19/piece to lock them up for the future. Who knows what our kid will want to do, but I imagine that websites will still be around as he grows up. At least this way, if he wants to create his own website, he'll have it already in his name. I don't think the combinations of names we're coming up with are THAT common, but since I was floored to find 3 other Brian LoCicero's in the world, I can only imagine that somewhere there might be babies being born who have similar names to what we're thinking.

Topic 4: Work has been quite nice as of late. Other than the normal daily "emergency" that seems to pop up I am making progress on several initiatives that I have under my belt and as I get them finished, new ones tend to show up. But for the first time in years, I see closure to things that I start or am working on. It actually is nice, that's all, to be in this position finally.

That's it for now. This is a late-night post, so it's all over the place. Go Tony Stewart!

08 October 2007

Bad news, Good news, Bad news

So the Cubs continue on the path of ridiculousness and now enter their 100th year since their last World Series crown, and I happily renew my season tickets yet again. I know I'm part of the problem, and I've actually admitted that, but the odds are getting better as time goes on.

Bad news done. So nothing takes the bitter taste of failure out of your mouth other than a Bears victory over the Green Bay Packers. As has been said for 86 years, our season could be in the crapper, but if you beat Green Bay, it was all worth it. Just when Chicago is getting ready to ignore sports again, those darn Bears show up at Lambeau and restore faith that they truly are the same team with only a few changes from last year's Superbowl attendee.

I imagine that most of Chicago turned off the game by halftime. Although the score wasn't ugly, the play on the field surely was but I didn't. Green Bay was extremely dominant and but for some timely fumbles lost by them, they could have been up 31 to 7 likely. Instead it's only 17-7 and the Bears are weirdly still "in it" but needing a hell of a turnaround in the 2nd half. And a hell of a turnaround it was. For once the Bears offense looked like it had a purpose and knew what it was doing. The final scoring drive by the Bears was almost an homage to Brett Favre as Brian Griese fooled all with the play action to hit a wide open Desmond Clark for a 34-yard touchdown down the left hand hash marks.

After weathering the drive by Green Bay which frankly looked lackluster and not "typical" of a Favre charge to the end zone of old, a last-second interception of a Favre floater killed off the perfect season for the Bay, and kept hope alive for awhile that the Bears can still make something of this season.

Next week brings the Viqueens to Soldier Field and a hungry fan base, so lets see how this victory turns itself into momentum.

Good news done, so back to the last bit of bad news for the weekend. It's reported late tonight that the Tribune Corp may NOT have the Cubs totally sold off by Opening Day 2008. The debate is whether to sell the Cubs lock, stock and two stinking barrels, or to parcel it off as the team, the merchandise, Wrigley Field, the scalping business they have, the cash cow of the revenue from the rooftops, etc., etc. Nothing like these bastards who are so in debt to now dick around with the franchise thinking they can get more for it in pieces than as a whole. I don't know, if your business is in the crapper, don't you cut bait and run? Then again, I'm forgetting that this Corporation doesn't have any good business sense at all, so why would the get this last piece of it right for the fans?

07 October 2007

"Baby Lo" Update

So, enough of this baseball disappointment, I haven't done a baby update for awhile.

About three weeks ago, Mary Kay found out she had Gestational Diabetes. This means she needs to test her blood sugars four times a day, change her diet to include MORE carbohydrates spread out across the day, and report her levels to the doctors at least once a week.

After the three weeks, the doctors actually have her on medication now to help control the blood sugars as her "fasting level" (first one taken in the morning) stayed higher than 100, which isn't good. The upshot is that she's only taking pills and doesn't have to do insulin shots.

We had another ultrasound this past week and everything is looking great. He's still a little bigger than he should be for this time of his incubation, but that's understood as part of the Gestational Diabetes having an impact. If the GD doesn't get under control, what happens is that the baby grows too fast and then comes early, however his lungs and other internal organs might not be ready and that'll mean some hospital time. Additionally, if he gets too big, that means we need to go C-Section. So we need to watch this and make sure everything works out just fine.

Baby's room is basically done. I need to go through it with a fine tooth comb and make sure everything is ready to go, but the Glider/Rocker is now in and to be delivered soon, which means we're done.

Everyone was very generous at the shower last weekend. Just amazing stuff from amazing people. We're very blessed to have such good friends and family.

We're down to NINE weeks left now, (due date is still around 12/10/07), so the countdown is on. Still lots to do and not much time to do it in, but it'll work out.

Mary Kay is a trooper as her body is going through so many changes that she never knows if it's supposed to feel like that or not. She's been having a lot of pelvic pains as it starts to widen to allow a decent birth canal for the baby to come through.

OH at the last ultrasound he was 3 lbs., 11 oz. so he's going to sprout a bunch over the next nine weeks and Mary Kay will probably feel even WORSE.

Thanks again for all well wishes.

05 October 2007

99 Years of Futility on the Wall, 99 Years on the Wall

I think most people thought I'd post after each Cub game. Well, given the times of night that they ended and the fact that my brain just aches so much after watching the decisions and plays that unfold before me, it's just been impossible.

So here we are on travel day with the Cubs coming home down two games to the D-bags. I have the tickets for the Game 4 (if necessary) game on Sunday when, as Lou already told us after Game 1, Zambrano will go on 3 days rest and be ready for Game 4. Of course that was Lou who thought that they'd come back to win Game 2 to ensure that. I doubt he thought we'd be down two.

Where to start? Well Game 1 is pretty easy to sum up. Zambrano was fantastic and the first 5 batters in our order were futile. Now, to the decision of Lou to pull Z after the 6th inning. Anyone who knows me knows that I watch Z as closely as anyone. For the money we're paying, we should be hoping he's the next coming of god. But I've said it 100 times, after the 6th inning and/or after his 100th pitch, he turns to crap. So although he's rocking along, Lou got defensive and made the decision he PROBABLY should have made during regular season play several times. We might have had a few more wins and maybe home field advantage for the first round. Last point on Game 1, Soriano. All year he swings wildly at the first pitch with it paying off many many times. But now he watches the first pitch (almost every time it was a fastball down the middle), and then ends up swinging at all the breaking sliders and curveballs. Go figure! Surely he figured out what he was doing wrong and has fixed it (irony)

Game 2 was a disaster. Ted Lilly couldn't find his rhythm, pitches or attitude. 50 pitches by the end of the 2nd inning and the Danica Patrick footstomp/slam glove into the mound after giving up the 3-run shot. Good thing he was keeping his cool last night. The first 5, now with only Theriot in it as a change continues to not bother show up leaving all the heavy lifting to the back end of the order. Geovany Soto has pretty much solidified his opening day 2008 starting position behind the plate. Hart also looked good out of the pen, although he was getting hit hard, he's the future and frankly, at this point, that's where we're ending up (again) talking about "next year".

Game 3 tomorrow brings us Livan Hernandez v Rich Hill. At this point the Cubs have nothing to lose so they can literally throw the book at the D-bags. If they win, I get to go to the (if necessary) game to see Z pitch again, this time to just tie up the series. But why get that far ahead of myself?

DK if I'll write much if they lose tomorrow win or lose, but then again, we're Chicago Cubs fans and we'll overanalyze the crap out of this to the point of blood dripping from our eyes.

01 October 2007


Well, the Cubs have won the N.L. Central and now face the Arizona Diamondbacks for the N.L.D.S. in a best of five shoot-out.

But first, can every Chicago Cub fan please take a moment to breathe and then laugh your collective asses off at the total, catastrophic collapse of the New York Mets? I mean, we haven't seen a collapse of a playoff bound team like that since maybe, what.....1969?!!! Thanks Mets for replacing the painful memories of us giving it up to you in '69, for blowing a 7-game lead with 17 games to go in 2007.

So Game 1 starts on Wednesday in Arizona with ace Carlos Zambrano taking the mound. I think Carlos learned some valuable lessons this year (well I HOPE he has) in keeping his cool in the big games and how much the fans can get behind you when you just do your job. He needs to come out of the gate firing heat on Wednesday, so I hope the pressure doesn't get to him. Looking back at the 2003 Cubs, there's only 3 of them left on this year's team in Aramis Ramirez, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano. I'm sure the pain is still there for those three guys and they can share it with those who have joined the team.

Looking at our squad, we've might just have the most previous World Series winners on our team and so the experience has to be just natural. No one believes the Cubs can do this, which makes them the PERFECT team TO do it. In 2003, we scratched our heads at the Marlins and I still wonder how the hell they pulled it off, but I think the Cubs are at the point that everyone thought they'd be back in April and May, dominant!!

Probably a lot of posts this week and next and hopefully the next as my emotional rollercoaster will be fun to handle.

For those who don't understand the title of this post, it refers to a sign over the Right Field wall and it's debated a lot except by true Cub fans. It WAS 036198 until this week, so the 00 is now the number of years since the Cubs won a Division Championship. Cub fans know what 61 and 98 mean.

27 September 2007

Wirt$ as in Hurt$

Nothing amazes me more than those people who don't want to speak ill will of the dead. For decades, the man at the helm of the Chicago Blackhawks organization has terrorized and abused his own fans so much that, if they were not one of the Original Six, they would likely be out of the league and gone.

Now, upon his death, semi-positive articles appear praising him for what he's done. Look, I realize that _I_ personally could never run a professional franchise, so my views are, and always will be, from the perspective of a fan. Without totally trashing Wirt$, the papers are being kind by saying that he did things "his way". Well, all apologies to Frank Sinatra, but honestly, Wirt$ did things the "typical Chicago owner way" and that is just for himself and rarely for the fans.

We've not had a Stanley Cup Champion here since 1961. 46 years of drought with only 5 Cup appearances, the last being in 1992 and 1973 prior to that. Only 4 playoff appearances in the past 12 years and only 2 of those since 1997. We're pathetic while new franchises in warm weather win the Stanley Cup.

Look, you can Google online to see all of Wirt$ crimes against this storied franchise and you can read about it in Career Misconduct by Mark Weinberg who was the impetus behind The Blue Line independent fan newsletter sold outside the Stadium prior to every home game, so I'll just say that he was a classic "old money" guy who made a fortune in Liquor, Real Estate and Sport and spent NONE of it back reinvesting in the one thing he owned which impacted people the most, the Blackhawks.

I only would say that if his funeral is to be televised, that it's not made available to anybody in Chicago. I mean, surely he'd want it that way so that it would encourage mourners to show up versus sitting at home and watching it. So if your favorite pub has Judge & Dolph as their liquor distributor (where he used to be like Al Capone) or you're at a stadium where Bismarck is the food provider (owned by him) or you even think about going to a Blackhawks game keep in mind that he did it all for himself and his family and not for the fans.

R.I.P. Mr. Wirt$, I'm sure you were a good family man and an fun guy to be close to, but you've done nothing over the last 40 years but ruin the franchise I loved the most. For that, I can only imagine you'll need to come to some resolution with. He was born in Detroit, so I bet down deep, he was always a Redwings fan ;-p

25 September 2007

Freedom's just another word

I really do believe that the Founding Fathers of the United States of America are spinning so fast in their graves that they could tunnel through to China.

The ever-increasing efforts of censorship in the US are reaching new heights every single day and the people who are supposed to protect the freedom to speak seem to be caving into to supposed "majority" voices.

Look, I think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an ass. He was part of the group of terrorists who took our hostages in 1979 in Iran and I will forever hold him responsible for those actions. But boycotting Columbia University for taking the opportunity, when he was going to be in NYC anyway, to allow him to speak is ridiculous.

We are supposedly a country of ideas and of free speech. To claim that free speech is only for Americans is ridiculous. It is for us and if we're true Americans we extend that right to anyone we engage in conversation. Voltaire's quote that "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" was said BEFORE the Constitution was written so the "free speech" ideology has existed even before we were our own sovereign country.

I think what happened yesterday was EXACTLY what should happen. He stood up, answered questions with preposterous self-deluded answers and was laughed at by the supposed "liberal students and administration" of Columbia. This reminds me of a phrase that my Father used a lot to me when I was younger. "I used to think you were stupid, but then you opened your mouth and removed all doubt".

Mahmoud was seen for exactly what he is. A delusional dictator who touts the company line in the face of objection. This is someone who supposedly understands the west, but is so ingrained into the ways of the Middle East that he can only see things one way, the closed minded, religiously driven way.

So if the protesters, Fox News Channel and all of the other minority noise-makers had their way we would have never seen this leader of a dangerous nation without his clothes on.

Everyone should just calm down and allow people to speak. We've become a society of Jerry Springer shows where you have to "shout down" the opposition as a way of "winning". Often, if you just shut your own mouth and allow stupidity to reveal itself to you, its even BETTER than shouting them down.

That's what Freedom of Speech is supposed to be. Allowing someone to say their piece, and your equal opportunity to protest it, ignore it, debunk it, or just leave it alone and stand on its own two frail feet.

Check it out if you care about our ever decreasing right to speak our minds.

24 September 2007

Magic #4 and #79

So after a Saturday and Sunday where the Cubs won and the Brew-crew lost, the "magic number" is down to four. This means that any combination of Cub wins and Brewers losses which equal 4 has the Cubs clinching the Central division and a playoff spot.

Mary Kay and I were there on Saturday and the atmosphere is that of 2003, 1998, 1989 and 1984. It's happiness heaving from every aisle. It's people of all types being friendly to each other and leaving their worries at the turnstiles (although those aren't used anymore).

Mary Kay was amazing in attending the game. Given that she's constantly tired from the pregnancy and everything that comes with that (frequent bathroom runs and the newly found gestational diabetes), she was a trooper and still wanted to see the Cubbies on their way to post-season folly. Thanks to one of the best friends' in the world, Richard Owen, we were able to swap our season tickets (Upper Deck Box) for his "other" set of season tickets down in Field Box so that MK didn't have to walk the ramps up to our seats in the UD. Saturday's "magic number" was 79, which meant 79 days until Baby Lo's birth.

So it's looking like playoff baseball (again) in the year that my son will be born. It IS only fitting as this kid already has two Cubs jerseys, a Cubs winbreaker/pants combo, his "my first Cubs hat" hat and sipper bottles and other things bought for him. So the only question left is whether or not the "curse" is passed on, or, he's born the prodigal son of a championship team. Either way, his very own personalized paver brick will be bought upon his birth and placed into the walkway around Wrigley for the 2008 season. (Hopefully close to mommy and daddy's brick which is in the Mark Grace section, 3rd column from the right and just under some asian sounding named folks).

The Cubs have gone to a four man rotation at the moment, getting these guys ready to pitch frequently as is known to happen during the limited amounts of playoff games. Given our record we likely will not have home field advantage at any stage of this campaign although the wild card race is getting a bit dicey. This means the first playoff games since 2003 will be on October 6th and 7th. Based on all the talk amongst our season ticket group, Richard and I will likely be going on the 7th (also Bears v Packers that day). That would be game 4 prior to heading back to the other teams' city (if we haven't won it by then).

Hold on to your hats folks, the ride is going to be worse than a roller coaster.

Is the Rex Grossman experiment done?

So after last night's performance, Lovie Smith, still the general said that "Rex is still our QB" to the media about 2,000 times. What I can't figure out is if it's because he's decided to live and die by this kid, or if he's been told to say this from the penny pinching management of the Bears?

Now, I realize that the Bears made it to the playoffs and the Superbowl last year with Rex starting every game, but last season included just as horrible performances, however they seem to have been spread out a bit more than they have been already this year.

You just don't see any fire in his eyes when they show him on t.v. When things start to go poorly, they show him on the screen and he just looks like he's dreaming of being anywhere but right there on the field with the greatest football team in the world (my opinion). His passing choices (those that Ron Turner gives him) turn into adventures and against any defense worth its salt, are batted down or intercepted.

Next week brings the first NFL Norris Division contest of the year with the equally as bad Lions (although they are 2-1). If we can't get our poop together for this one, a change MUST ABSOLUTELY be made in the ship's captain position. With the Packers 3-0 and a 2 game comfy lead over the Bears, we either sheep or get off the pot!

Rex came off the field at one point last night to the chants of Griese!. He knows that the hangman's gallows await if it doesn't get better. Let's see how much of a competitor he is. We have back to back road, division games, followed by a return home against the Viqueens. We could be fighting the Pack for the lead, or basically done for the year by October 14th. It sure would be nice to be leading the Pack!

05 September 2007

What else, the Cubs...

So many things have happened in the last week of Cubdom, so where does one start? The Cubs are now on a two game slide and barely hanging on to the NL Central lead, and one has to think that if they could put together a 5-game run (given that Milwaukee and St. Louis are just as unstable), they could breath a little easier. This brings me to my first point, the "loser mentality" that is pervasive throughout the organization.

I can only hope that with new ownership for 2008, that the house is fully cleaned out from broadcasting booth to ticket management. Last night, Bob Brenly (who is nowhere close to Steve Stone when it comes to color commentary) said that Monday's loss didn't hurt the Cubs because Milwaukee and St. Louis both lost as well. He went on to say that at this time of year, it's more important that days click off the calendar and that you maintain the lead and that "although it'd be fantastic to win and put some distance, it's not the end of the world". Bob, is that truly what you thought when Arizona was on it's way to winning their division and the World Series? He went on to say later that inning that in an upcoming 5 games with St. Louis, that if we could win 4 of them, we'd be in a good position.

Why put so much pressure on the team to go .800 in a 5 game set? Not many teams can pull that off against the crappy teams of the league, let along a team fighting them for the division title.

Look, the hope of a Wild Card is basically gone for any team in the NL Central. At 3 games over .500, the Cubs are in the lead and would be 6 games out of the Wild Card spot, so the only option for the post season is to win the division outright. Every single game is very important and to pish-posh a loss which had our $91 Million ace, lose his cool and look horrible (for the 5th game in a row), is unacceptable. Steve Stone would not have "forgiven" the team and would have been very honest about how a champion wins in this sport. I, as a fan, do not accept the "just stay above the waterline" mentality and if that's what we're getting in the booth; a booth that was created by the current management after the previous booth criticized the team openly during the Dusty Baker regime, then I have to believe that this thought process has infected every person that is in charge of running my club.

Jim Hendry can sit there and make moves and talk about everything he's done to put a winner on the field and to be fair, he's done a TON, in fact, a lot more than I thought he was going to do, but when the rest of the organization is happy with "just getting by", then it's time to roto-root the pipes and change the thought process.

Mark Cuban, even if it means you have to over-pay for this franchise, PLEASE DO IT! For all of the things that people hate Mark about, (his mouth, his brashness, his finger in the face of the old guarde) he is one thing when it comes to sports, he's someone who cares and bleeds the team colors. We can only hope that this is where it ends up as the Tribune and the Wrigley's before them have watered down and milked the fans for long enough.

I made a reference to Zambrano and I'll only give him this one paragraph. Carlos, you said that the fans only care about themselves. 40,460 per game are not there for their health, they are there because there's actually a glimmer of post season play again. Post season play that you've had a part in bringing. You lamented all off-season about how the club wouldn't give you a sweetheart deal. You have it now. Don't be like every other top contract player and now relax cuz you're set for life. I know you apologized yesterday, but seriously, we all know that the club made you do it to protect their image. If you truly want to apologize, you'll learn to keep your emotions in check, pay attention to your coaches and get back to the form that had you roll off 14 wins after a rocky start. Bring us a win, bring us to the post season, and get us to a World Series and all of this crap quiets down and goes away. You have a lot of years ahead of you in a Cub uniform so keep that in mind the next time you want to shoot your mouth off. The people you see support Santo, Banks, Williams, Sandberg, Harry Caray, will keep you in their hearts for years if you just do your job and do it well.

That's a long paragraph telling a millionaire how to act. For now, I'll sign off. It's going to be an interesting month.

28 August 2007

A week in review

Well, life has been a bit hectic in the LoCicero household over the last week. As most of you are aware we had those 100-year types of rains (several days of it) and so beyond the craziness of the weather and in spite of the fact that we are in an area that DIDN'T lose power, our refrigerator crapped out and on Friday last week, we had to find a way to preserve a healthy amount of groceries.

I've learned a lot about dry ice since then. In fact 100 pounds of it has kept our stuff frozen solid in two of our large coolers that we use when we go to the Indy/F1 races. It's amazing stuff at -110° F. For most groceries this is perfectly good. We've found out that for ice cream bars, it actually makes them TOO icy, so when eating them, you get a few ice crystals in your mouth which definitely changes the texture of the item.

Okay, baby update: We had another ultrasound today (we are getting them monthly due to MK's high blood pressure, history of diabetes in the family and of course, her age) and our bouncing baby boy is up to 2.1 lbs now. We're just over 3 months away from his arrival into our lives and it's starting to get to be real fun (for me at least). MK's frequent bouts of fatigue, the pressure of the baby on her bladder and his hyper-activity in the womb (he's a kicker already) has her feeling like a war is going on inside of her.

We took delivery of the crib, dresser and armoire last week and the room is starting to take shape. We still have a few outstanding items but so far, all things are showing up when they should. MK has had two fantastic shopping trips to find clothes for our son and she's been loading up the closet. We also spent this evening talking about names for the baby. As previously mentioned we're not going to divulge any names and that's probably going to be the most fun once we decide. We're getting close, but know that we don't have to pull the trigger on that just yet, we just need to have it for the birth certificate and social security number registration.

So tomorrow we finally get our fridge fixed (6 days seems like forever) and hopefully we can get stuff out of the coolers. I hope so since the dry ice lasts about 2.5 days and tomorrow will be the start of day 2.

That's about it for us at this point. I realize that I've gone a week without an update, so I'll get much better as we get closer to December. Also, a LOT has happened that I have opinions on that I've neglected to share.

21 August 2007

Still a marathon, waiting for an Ethiopian

Wealdstone 1, AFC Wimbledon 2 in the midweek matchup, has us at the top of the table, only outdone by goal difference. Saturday's away matchup versus East Thurrock United has us facing, yet again, an unbeaten team. It's very good to get these tests out of the way early in the campaign.

TB/SC management seems to suit AFC just dandy.

Goal scored today by the US Dons sponsored Daniel Webb. (We sponsor his away kit and he scored today in an away match!)

Here's a link to the updated table.

19 August 2007

It's a marathon, not a... yeah yeah, we know

AFC Wimbledon 2, Ramsgate 0. First win of the season under our belts but an early test midweek with a trip to Wealdstone who also won today. Form looked good today but we scored both goals with even sides, but when Ramsgate had a player sent off thanks to his vicious tackle, we couldn't/didn't score.

So, first match under the helm of Terry Brown and all is well.

On an American sport front, the Cubs are back in first place in the NL Central again. Let's see if we can stay here for awhile. I'm still deathly concerned about our bullpen. I honestly don't know what has gone through team management's minds since 2003, but it seems they keep putting effort and money against the offense and although the players have done well, we just continue to have these issues with closing out games efficiently. Starting pitching will go 6-7 innings and then mid-relief and closing makes it "interesting" to say the least.

2008 will bring new management of The Chicago Cubs. With the Tribune selling everything they own lock, stock and two barrels it's an open market. My desire is to have Mark Cuban be the new owner, but somehow I don't see the crotchety old farts who are the other owners in Major League Baseball approving of him, so they'll find someway to screw him out of ownership.

I'd love it if we could do what the Green Bay Packers did in Football. I'd be willing to pony up a couple thousand to purchase a share of the Cubs so that a) they could never be moved and b) a single owner couldn't just buy them and bleed them dry.

Sports, it's the bane of my existence.

17 August 2007

Technological Workshops

It's 2007, and I know I've made the joke to my friends a hundred times, that I want to know where my flying car is? I think it was promised to be available by now in my Boy's Life magazine I got when I was 8 or 9.

Of course at 8 or 9, I didn't understand the concept of big business and that the automotive industry would just be so dense that we'd just be getting hybrids in 2005.

But the advance of technology has my really amazed. If you look at the advancement of the Internet, mobile phones, and HD television, since 1987, it's amazing what we can do now across the globe. However, we're still digging coal out of the ground by sending down men with heavy machinery. It boggles the mind. Robots can build cars (and frankly just about anything) but they can't dig coal out of the ground??

I realize that for some/ALL of these coal mining towns, this IS their only source of income and how they make a living, so robots doing this would be met with huge resistence, but in the last 2 years, the amount of trapped and dead miners has to really make one think. I saw a woman who lost her husband in the Sago Mine accident in 2006 ask a question at the recent Chicago Democratic Presidential debate (sponsored by the labor unions), what the candidates would do to ensure better mine safety.

I realize that every big labor job has it's dangers, but the words safety and mine don't necessarily go together. Let's see, take 50 sticks of dynamite down a mile into the ground and then explode it to loosen coal from the walls. Not at all safe, if you ask me. It sort of reminds me of those stock news stories that run every July 1st on your local news stations where a dummy's hand is blown off in 2 seconds.

So, back to little Duey at age 8 or 9. We'd make our annual trek to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and each time, we'd do the Coal Mine exhibit. Part of this exhibit is that they show you what happens when the oxygen goes out and the flammable gases that exist NATURALLY take over. The demostration is with a gaslamp that then explodes!

This isn't a safe profession, but clearly a little more advanced technology might be the call of the day. Heavy machinery, dynamite, and workers that tend to die too early in life due to their profession just seem to scream for it.

09 August 2007

Prodigal son has arrived!

Mark this date and time, August 9th, 2007, 7:36pm CDT (GMT -6) as the moment David Beckham played his first minute in the MLS for the L.A. Galaxy against D.C. United. 71st minute, Galaxy down 1-0, playing with only 10 men.

While it's cool, I still don't know what the purpose is.

46,000 in attendance though. Maybe that's the only purpose.

They are playing on the converted baseball pitch at R.F.K. Stadium and it really looks like shite!!!

Daddy told me there'd be days like these

The last two days have really kicked my ass at work.

A lot has gone on in the Market Research industry over the last 10 years but the majority of it centers on the Internet as a Data Collection methodology. I'm very lucky to have led my company "operationally" through the migration phase of this change and therefore have a unique viewpoint at how it should be done and how it should be positioned.

Any and all work though, that's been done can be shit-canned with one or two industry rag articles. Case in point, Mr. Jack Neff's article from yesterday's AdvertisingAge.

Mr. Neff and I sat at the same table in September of 2006 at an IIR Industry event where 25 of today's Market Research leaders gathered at a round table to discuss Respondent Cooperation. Weirdly, the topic segued to quality of the online respondent pool for market research. Although a few made statements that said, online shouldn't be the ONLY thing under investigation, since today's culture of needing information quickly and cheaply have driven research online, people stayed riveted.

Don't get me wrong, throughout our march to the Internet, we had plenty of horror stories, so I'm not saying that there's isn't a problem. However it's a problem that more exposed than any problem that could have occurred during the move from mailout surveys to f2f, central location testing to the phone. Information and thought just moved SLOWER then and the sampling frames were more available and frankly, market research was a small business back then.

What Mr. Neff doesn't do is recognize that changes have been made already in the Industry. Any conference I've been at since that Sept '06 one, have had special focus on the online quality. So heralding the ARF for the creation of a Council is far too late in the process if you ask me. Additionally, I'm not sure of Mr. Neff's background in Market Research, but when I sat there and watched the P&G presentation, I could only ask myself "What supplier told P&G that that study should have been done online"?. I know that hindsight is 20/20, but seriously, I know that if one of my Client Service folks came to me and wanted me to quote a project similar to that one using online Data Collection, I'd have a serious discussion with them about why it was WRONG. No one in their right might calls out P&G in a public way because they are always the 800 pound gorilla, but they also said that they had done hundreds of side-by-sides, most of which were fine. So in a public way, they used a potential outlier to set the course of future policy.

My last rant about this article is the incessant re-use of the comScore quote. If I see it at one more industry event, I'm truly going to rush the stage and scream fraud at it. It's constantly being used as an intro to either defend other methods, or as a sales technique by online panel companies to scare you to use their panel. At least in THIS article, Mr. Neff states that comScore themselves (Gian Fulgoni, specifically) said that the original press release and research was an attempt to try to get MR companies to buy their own panel that they had created.

Folks, if you read this current article you have no idea that that quote is over three years old. It was either 2003 or 2004 when comScore was invited to my company to present their options. a) I implore comScore to update their data for god's sake and b) I invite them to also present details and findings behind the audience that they draw that sample from. They can only quote that information from the people who willingly (or unwillingly) install their "researchware" on their computers. Researchware is truly AdWare/SpyWare but used for honest research purposes.

When they were last quoting numbers, this panel only represented less than a million households/people. In a country where 302,000,000 people exist, and 70% of those are on the Internet, their universe of sample represents roughly .47% of the online population in this country. I'd like to see the correlation between those who download research ware and those who are in online panels. The quote is used (time and time again) for shock value. What Mr. Neff doesn't finish off by saying is that Gian Fulgoni said it was "to drive business to buy their sample offering, and that in the end, it didn't work".

So for the last two days, I've spent the majority of my time on the phone with Client Service teams, clients, and panel partners re-answering all of the questions that Mr. Neff's September 2006 article brought up again. Although I'm more than happy to do this as we are in the service business and our clients deserve all of the answers and rationale behind our decision to do research on the web, the muck-rakers will continue to exist who don't know all of the facts and details.

As an industry, frankly, we do very little to set industry standards in the United States. By far, our European counterparts go far and above the rest of the world in setting global "seals of approval" that MR companies need to comply with (and are audited against) in order to maintain the level of business that they do. We've needed that for a long time in the US, but I think the spirit or attitude of "free market" gets in the way. So good on ya' to the ARF and to IIR for keeping this in the front of everyone's mind, but let's seriously set those industry standards that can be audited and certified versus just verbal posturing to keep the clients at bay!!

07 August 2007

Baby Boy Lo Update

We had another appointment at the Doctor this morning.

For the first time we could hear the heartbeat of "Baby Boy Lo" through the handheld device, so that was pretty exciting. We've been having problems hearing the heartbeat over Mary Kay's each time which caused the Doctor to bring us into the Ultrasound room to double check.

Unfortunately a few of the shooting pains and leg cramps that Mary Kay has been having was chalked up to "that's normal" by the doc. I'm sure that hasn't made her happy. She also has to do the three-hour Glucose test AGAIN. That was a ruckus last time as she got there and they refused to start the test since the Doctor forgot to sign the prescription slip.

Otherwise, all things are great and going fine. Her blood pressure is normal, all signs are normal at this moment. Keep the fingers crossed that things continue down this road.

06 August 2007

The Final F1 Slap in the Face

I'm furious, but not 100% surprised.

Some of you might know that after a eight-year run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Formual 1 racing is not returning for the 2008 year. Now, if you read the transcript, Tony George is very nice and accomodating to Bernie Ecclestone leaving the door open for the future because frankly, it's a good show that brings four days worth of income to the Speedway. But at the root of it is the egomaniacal Bernie who's kingdom of F1 is his and his alone.

Over the eight years of my experience at the US Grand Prix in speaking with the multitudes of international visitors who come to Indy, there's not one of them who won't make a comment about Bernie and his "control" issues. From the television rights, to the rules changes (and unfair interpretations to the team not in the big four), to his disdain for showing up in Indy to be greeted by banners that were only 3 weeks old after the Indy 500 race he is the ultimate definition of a control freak. His extremely outspoken interview this past June where he said that the F1 doesn't need the United States and that there are plenty of countries lining up to have an F1 event in their country was, to me the death of F1 at Indy.

Now, add to the kick in the teeth of not having F1 in the US (again), the dismissal of Scott Speed from the Scuderia Toro Rosso team. Scott was a multi-year project who was the direct focus of STR sponsor Red Bull. Red Bull had a contest to put an American back in F1 after many years of absence. SpeedChannel estimated that roughly $53,500,00 has been invested in this initiative and that Scott was actually really making improvements. Clearly, the suggested "dispute" and "assault" of Speed by team boss Franz Tost is likely at work here, but the PUBLIC statement made by this F1 team (again, all under Bernie's eyes) is that he's been let go due to performance.

So let's look at his performace against that of his teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi. (courtesy of SpeedChannel)

Championship Standing
Pos. Gained on 1st Lap
Pos. Gained after 1st Lap
Laps Leading Teammate
Laps before being Lapped
Laps Ran inside Top 10 (2007)

Yes, clearly Speed was the poorer performer of the two on the team (are you KIDDING me?). Liuzzi is SO good that even Sebastian Vettel (who replaced Speed for this weekend's Hugarian Grand Prix) finished in front of him having never been on the Hungaroring before in his life!! This would be the equivalent to ME finishing 32nd in the Indy 500!

Back to Bernie for a second: So a team manager basically strangles his driver and gets no penalty, no reprimand, no investigation from the F1, but defending World Champion Fernando Alonso holds up his teammate (and "$$" future Bernie annuity, Lewis Hamilton) in the pits for the Q3 period and he's docked five positions on the starting grid and McLaren could not earn any Constructors points for this race. If this happened between teams, I could see the severity of the penalties, but within any given team, it sounds like a team squabble that can handle itself. Of course all the events from the weekend now has Freddie wanting off the team as clearly his teammate is the focal point not only for Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes, but for F1 and Bernie's interests.

In the end, the money talks for Bernie and that's really about it. In the eight years I've been watching (and I'll be the first to admit, I never watched it prior to them coming to Indy), he's threatened Silverstone that they were going to be pulled off the schedule (never going to happen now that Prince Lewis is here to stay), he's basically humiliated Michelin into submission (they didn't help themselves at the 2005 USGP), he's made it so expensive to race each year that Jaguar is gone and people like Eddie Jordan are absent from the sport, and the fact that the qualifying rules change almost year to year to penalize the teams who dominate keep F1 a laughing stock to anyone not enamored with the glow of it all. There was a group trying to break away from this stronghold a few years ago, but the roadblocks they faced when Bernie got the sponsors to go exclusive made it difficult to start.

Yes, it SOMETIMES is the finest racing in the world, and it's SOMETIMES cutting edge technology that might make it into production card 10 years later, but at the end of the day, it's not any better than NASCAR, ChampCar or the IRL except that it costs 100 times more! Not every team can be competitive (on any circuit), but only having 4-6 cars that dominate out of the 20 or so doesn't make it very fun for the people to watch. If you attend an F1 one event, you can only really buy merchandise from three teams, Ferrari, Mercedes and BMW. Super Agurri Honda came to Indy off of an amazing race in Montreal, but you couldn't buy a single item to support them.

Bernie, I will still probably tune in to the Sunday morning coverage on Speed only because Varsha, Matchett, Hobbs, and Windsor make it worth watching, but I really am going to check out for the most of it. I'm not arrogant enough to say I won't watch until another American races (who knows when that might be) but it's going to take a lot for me to really care about F1 again after all of this. To Scuderia Toro Rosso, shame on you for allowing this to happen. We (American race fans who support Scott Speed) will not forget about this.

02 August 2007

Al Sharpton's now in Chicago!

I guess all of the ethnic issues in New York City are solved and it's the greatest place on Earth since Al Sharpton has now set up an official office in Chicago for his National Action Network.

Look Al, you've done a great job since the Tawana Brawley issue that thrust you into the national spotlight to ditch the bad sweat suits and jheri curls. You've had semi-successful forays into the Presidential primaries, but now, it seems that the single reason why you're here is because "Mayor Daley has been getting a free pass" and that the Police are out of control.

Al, you have a lot of chutzpah my friend. We have Jesse and Jesse, Jr. already here and if you haven't noticed, one of the leading candidates for President out of the Democratic party is the junior Senator from Illinois. Your move here is a direct afront towards at LEAST Jesse Jr. He's done a great job of being re-elected and honestly, I was floored when he stopped his campaign against Daley for this last election.

Daley unfortunately isn't the problem Al. It's just like any other local government, it's the next tier of idiots who are in charge. Stroger Jr. is an absolutely abomination as Cook County Board President. I just can't stand seeing "Urkel" again on T.V. and he's running the County into the ground. As for the police, the current head, Phil Cline, has stepped down and the interviews for candidates to replace him are just about completed, so honestly, you're too late already.

But, all of this said, you definitely will provide some fun to our local news and for all of the press conferences I'm sure you will hold. Maybe you just want to get a little bit of the glow from Jesse Jr. and Barack, who knows? I look forward to your marches and campaigns against anyone who says bad words on the radio as well. I'll be sure to call in Debbie Wolf from the People Against Censorship to battle you out on that one.

Welcome to Chicago, Al. Be sure to hit Navy Pier on a weekend night, you MUST hit Chicago B.L.U.E.S., Kingston Mines, Harry Caray's, and I can't wait to see you during Bears season, chumming it up with the players. I'm sure this will be an interesting next year or so.

31 July 2007

When good laws are interpreted horribly

By now, most of you probably have seen the footage of the two Phoenix, AZ news stations helicopter crash. Here's a view from a competing station's 'copter. Now, news comes out that the District Attorney is going to prosecute the guy who stole the vehicle for the deaths of all in the helicopters. He is citing the "If anyone dies in the commission of a felony, they will be prosecuted for their murder" routine.

Now, I actually agree with that law, however, I do believe the "spirit" of that law (and we all know how that doesn't mean spit anymore) is for when someone is innocently in a bank and a felon is robbing the bank and shoots them, or, for the innocent bystander in a 7-11 who is killed from a robber.

The key words are innocent. The news whores who have started chasing these police chases not only continue to sensationalize and encourage criminals to run, but also assume the risk that they will run into each other. They are flying too low for FAA regulations and therefore have a responsibility to the public AND each other to ensure that they aren't stupid. If they weren't so damn concerned with getting the "best shot" which would win them either local or national emmy's for "news coverage", we wouldn't have this. Frankly, these things should be a pool camera and that way ALL stations have the same feed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming these four men in the helicopters, they were doing what their employer told them/encouraged them to do.

It's not just car chases; each of these stations are under such pressure to produce something that the public wants to see that they endanger the lives of their own employees to get it. Whether it's getting closer to a building fire, buying "stringer" footage, or investigative reporting undercover, it's the "wow" factor that they believe gets them noticed.

Well, for the two men from KNXV and the two from KTVK, who are dead, I would think that the families of these men are more angry that their employers put them AND ENCOURAGED them to put themselves in harms way. NEWS STATIONS, wake up!! This truly is getting rediculous. I heard that these copters fell very close to a VA Hospital and honestly it's amazing that they ended up in a public park and not on top of further victims who might be in traffic or at home WATCHING THE COVERAGE!!!

27 July 2007

It's almost football season!

The fresh smell of cut grass, the crunching tackles, and the chants of "The referee's a wanker" lets one know that footie season is again, upon us. As you can see from the links to the right, I'm a supporter of the English club, AFC Wimbledon. Most of you know the history of how this lifetime Chicago Bears fan took up interest in "The Beautiful Game", but for those who don't, let's just say that we can blame close friends and late nights drinking. 'Innit how all good things start?

This season marks the 10th season that I've supported a club from the Borough of Merton, London, England. It's stated that way because of the introduction of "franchising" to English Football when Peter Winkleman bought Wimbledon F.C. and moved them 70 miles to Milton Keynes. From the ashes, rises the Phoenix and AFC Wimbledon was born on May 30th, 2002.

And so we start another season on our way "back" up the Football Pyramid.

But this brings me to my real point for this post. The overhype about David Beckham coming to play for the L.A. Galaxy just gets to me. Last Sunday, I flipped over to ESPN to see his first game and figured he'd be coming on around the 77th minute, (good guess on my part). It's great to have him here and in the sport. I just don't understand what he has to gain by doing this other than being a huge ambassador to the sport in this country (and all that money). I just wonder outside of LA, how many NEW fans he's bringing to the sport since that's what is seriously needed versus whipping the "already faithful" into a frenzy.

In response to the big name signing it seems that the other MLS clubs are trying similar tactics as Cuauhtemoc Blanco appeared against Celtic for the Chicago Fire on Sunday (and scored) and he's a big name out of the Mexican league. So I do think it will elevate the desire to compete with stronger players, but does the MLS do this at the expense of their budgets? If we could get a competitiveness here to keep our own US stars home, that'd be the best long-run strategy (however I like having Americans to root for in the English Premier League).

What is the MLS' business strategy here though? After the initial burst in attendance and influx of cash to the local clubs, what is the two-to-three year vision? I don't hear anything of it and there's no reason for the MLS to keep it secret (again, IF they have a vision), but it's THREE years to the next World Cup in South Africa and that's a long time to try to gain new supporters and build a club that can compete. Remember, it has to be a squad that WON'T have Beckham or Blanco (duh, it has to be comprised of Americans), so unless these moves are bolstering U.S. talent, it's just gotta be "All about the Benjamins". We have to stop roller-coastering in our appearances in the World Cup, otherwise, it's destined to be a third tier sport in this country.

So in the meantime, I'll keep my focus on AFC Wimbledon and our push to be promoted out of the Ryman League Premier League into the Conference South. C'mon you Dons!!!!

Death Cat

I've always known that animals are smarter than humans. They run from danger, carefully pay attention to what they eat and just live to make us happy. But seriously, a cat that can detect when an old person is going to die??

As a gambling man, I mean, Oscar definitely has increased his odds by being a resident of a nursing home, but there has to be something more here. Maybe the cat sees the nurses playing with pillow cases prior to going into rooms? Okay, so I'm just being funny, but seriously, all the talk I've heard of is how they bring pets into the homes to help with recovery and with mobility. This is the weirdest twist on that theory I've ever heard.

If I was a resident there, I think I'd be pretty sure to keep a slingshot or something next to my bed so that the damn cat didn't curl up next to me for sure.

I've never been a big fan of cats. I'm a "dog guy" as most people know, and believe that cats are really just an irritant. Chalk this one up to yet another nail in the "Brian will never love cats" coffin.

25 July 2007

It's a Boy

Yesterday, Mary Kay and I got the happy news that our baby is a boy. It's weird really; I had convinced myself (pretty deeply) that we were having a girl. It's just the way life works.

Even though I didn't admit it to my wife, I had already been narrowing down girl names in my head. I love Brianna, Kelly, Katie, and Erin. But now, that's not to be.

When we were told it was a boy, I have to admit, I wept. Although my wife's tummy is covered in gel for the ultrasound, and she was on her side (Baby Boy LoCicero was spining and moving quite furiously), I had to keep it to myself. A thousand thoughts fly through your mind when you hear the gender of your unborn child. Sure, it's the continuation of the patriarchical surname (not like there's not thousands of LoCicero's out there), but I immediately thought of what sports he might play (if he plays any), what his interests will be, my fear that I'll be 60 when he heads off to college, and of course, the usual, how in the hell are we going to pay for all of this?

Admittedly, Mary Kay and I are consummate planners, and the college fund is already in place and growing (thanks to a bullish market right now). As some of you know, we already have our unborn child registered at The Goddard School to start in March '08 and we are likely the ONLY homeowner in Moose Lake Estates with decent equity in our home. (Hell, with two foreclosures in our neighborhood, one across the street from us, we're probably the ONLY ones with more than 20% equity!!). So our own disciplined behavior of money management means we really shouldn't have much to worry about, but you just never know. With escalating costs of education, with technology taking over our lives and with the massively increasing debt that the United States is accumulating, I'll be surprised if gasoline isn't $5.00/gallon in the next 18 months.

Don't get me wrong, for the 30 minutes in the dark during an ultrasound, I definitely celebrated this happy day of our lives, but isn't it sad that one's mind goes to worry and concern so quickly? America is still the land of dreams that so many immigrants try to make true but our leaders have me very very worried about the future for my child, my boy, my son. As any Father must do, I will do everything in my power to ensure he doesn't make the same mistakes I made and that he cherishes family over anything else in life, but the variables we cannot control, well, I guess we're going to just have to face them together.