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.