Unpaid Endorsements: My 4 Favorite iPhone Apps

By no means am I an iPhone expert, an App connoisseur, or a smart, capable person. However, I do have some super-helpful apps that I use on a daily basis that might be useful to you:

Beat The Traffic = Every single time I get in the car for my morning and evening commutes to and from Dallas, I check BTT. (Full Disclosure: I only have two or three possible routes — four or five if it’s absolutely ridiculous traffic.)

But the highly accurate red/orange/green road colors let me know which roads and intersections to avoid, and exclamation points highlight any accidents/major slowdowns. (You can report them as well.) I don’t really use any of the other features (daily alerts, etc.), but I’m sure they’re good.


Gas Buddy = You might have a favorite gas station or one that you “know” is the cheapest around…but you can know where the cheapest gas prices are with this app.

One big button to hit for GPS-targeting your current location, or just type in a zip code. It’ll give you a pretty long list of area gas stations which you can sort by price or location. I remember my dad trying to remember all of the various gas prices in our neighborhood, and this app makes it so crazy easy. Technology is awesome.


SoundHound = Driving. Great tune comes on radio that you don’t recognize. Tap to open SoundHound, tap to start “listening,” and it’ll name that tune in 10ish seconds. Read about the artist and then share what you’re listening to on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Also has the lyrics that will scroll along live with the radio, so it’s basically a karaoke app too.


MLB Trade Rumors = I started reading this site online several years ago for the latest baseball news and rumors. It’s a freakin’ empire now, and the app has all the site content updated instantly — which is great for fantasy baseball dorks like me.

Editor’s Note: I was reminded by @GalloSays on Twitter (Thanks Steve!) that the actual app name is not “MLB Trade Rumors,” likely due to MLB copyright restrictions. In iTunes, look for “Baseball Trade Rumors.”


What are YOUR favorite apps? I showed you mine, so show me yours (in the comments below)!

Rant: Speeding Ticket

Got a speeding ticket on the Dallas North Tollway this past Saturday. 76 in a 65 near Wycliff exit heading north.

Although I don’t think I was actually doing 76, I’ll probably just pay the fine or do the online courses (or both). Typical fine is $250-300 or so.

Sure, I could be stopping a burglary. But this looks more badass.

I call the judge today as instructed by the quota-filler cop who pulled me over. I get a mildly annoyed representative on the phone who takes my information and basically tells me to call back — that my ticket hasn’t been filed in their system yet.

So I’m supposed to call back. As if I don’t have a job and family and things to do, I need to keep calling back while I wait for the “system” to get updated.

FACT: I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket since 1997 on the Atlantic City Expressway. I was doing a 1.5-hour commute, and got caught doing 76 in a 55. THAT is a stop-worthy offense.

FACT: The “violation” I allegedly committed last Saturday was “Speeding 10 percent or more above posted speed limit.” So math-wise, here’s your lesson:

In a 75 MPH zone, you can do up to 82.5. (75 x .10 = 7.5; 75 + 7.5 = 82.5)

In a 65 MPH zone, you can do up to 71.5. (65 x .10 = 6.5; 65 + 6.5 = 71.5)

In a 55 MPH zone, you can do up to 60.5. (55 x .10 = 5.5; 55 + 5.5 = 60.5)

And so on.

I’m not sure why they went away from actually telling you how much your fine is on the ticket.

I guess it’s nice to give me an option where I can avoid getting “points” on my license — via the online courses.

It would be a lot nicer to either give me a cost up front or at least update your bureaucratic systems.

So I have to call back. You gotta be kiddin’ me.


Twins Update, 10/3/10

Great weekend for our girls.

Saturday, Mommy had to work 7AM to noon. But when she got home, we got in gear and headed over to Frisco Commons. Which is simply one of the most gorgeous parks you’ll ever see. Great walking trails, awesome playground area, splashy water area for summertime, a nice little lake for you fisherpeople, and more.

At the playground, we put the girls in the swings for the first time — and they loved it. Even looked like they were getting the hang of it on their own, leaning into it to go further. Farther. Whatever.

After the park, we headed out to Firewheel. For those who don’t know, it’s a new and growing area near Garland and Murphy with a big new shopping center. (Locals: Think Southlake with less snobbery.) Got the girls new sneakers. Alex is a size 3, Norah is a size 3Wide. Strolled around the shopping center, considered doing the Build-A-Bear thing (I’d rather do that when the girls can pick and choose their own options).

Stopped for dinner at TGIFriday’s. Entered to a chorus of yelling at the Texas/OU game, which was ending (and not in a good way for the vast majority of UT fans at the bar). We tried putting the girls in booster seats instead of high-chairs, and they took to it just fine.

Although we tried having the girls use those “easier for kids” crayon things about a week ago, Norah grabbed her blue crayon (with her left hand) and went about drawing (mostly on the paper kids’ menu). She also showed a predilection for sirloin steak and sweet potato fries. (Daddy Note: I now LOVE me some sweet potato fries.)

Then the stroll back to the car, with a quick detour through the mini-carnival/fair they had going in the parking lot, as well as a run through one of those temporary Halloween stores. (Daddy Note: I’m not sure whose idea it was, but the “UPS Driver” costume for kids? Seriously?)

Older Lady: Hello, Trick-or-Treaters! Why, if you aren’t just the scariest witch? And it’s wonderful to see YOU, Spider-Man! Here, take a whole bunch of Three Musketeers!

Kid: What about me Mrs. Giffelheffin?

Older Lady: You’re a UPS Driver, kid. Here, have some pennies.

Anyway, Sunday was mostly stuff around the house and then headed over to Shannon’s parents’ house. Dropped off the girls and ran to the consignment shop, where we loaded up on warmer fall/winter outfits. One more stop at the supermarket (where I got my new Starbucks drink: venti iced mocha with soy), then dinner and home.

It’s likely that you didn’t find this as fascinating as Daddy and Mommy did, but it was a great weekend with awesome Texas weather. Oh, and I finished my fantasy baseball season as Champion. (First time in 17 years of playing. Future blog to come.)

Peace, grins, health and twins!

Unemployment: Workforce Center Orientation

So I got a letter a few weeks ago that notified me I was “scheduled to attend a Workforce Center Orientation.” Although they didn’t come out and say it clearly, this was apparently a mandatory seminar in order to keep receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

Today was the big day, so I got out my best pair of khakis and headed over to a [NAME BRAND REMOVED BY EDITOR] hotel in McKinney.

This blog will hereafter be written in bullet points, since I sometimes roll that way:

* I was glad to NOT see any familiar faces, but saddened to see about 30-40 attendees at this meeting. The true faces of the economy.

* The first lady to speak included the phrase “helpful to people in your situation.” Stung a little bit, I must admit. Sure, she’s got a cushy government job where she’ll do mediocre work, leave at 5:00 p.m. on the dot every day, and never go above and beyond her written responsibilities. (I’m not bitter.) I’ve seen this lady’s clones at the DMV and a variety of other places.

* She also said something about “you can get copies if you have ran out.” Governmental grammar?

* The dress code of the attendees ranged from the business casual, polo shirt/khaki look to my favorite dude — who showed up 20 minutes late in a white T-shirt and gym shorts. I’m sure he’ll have employers beating down his door.

* Next lady to speak was kinda nice. Her gig was to talk about networking and using the WorkInTexas.com site to search for jobs.

* She claimed that 60% to 70% of new hires are through networking. A middle-aged dude in a T-shirt hounded her with questions since he was so worried about giving out his personal information. I was hoping he’d launch into a tirade against the watchful eye of the government or something like that, but she was eventually able to get him to a good place.

* They passed around a sign-up sheet for networking meetings. No offense, folks, but my time is better spent networking on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And e-mailing friends and contacts. And hitting the job boards. Which I do pretty much every day.

* I think I’m coming off wrong in this blog. I’m appreciative that the government is trying to help me get a job. But if they knew anything about me, they’d know that this meeting was a complete waste of my time. It was only an hour and a half, but I had to hurry up and get my daughters dressed and fed and over to my mom-in-law’s so she could watch them. All that prep time and driving and meeting would have been much better spent doing my search on my own.

I understand that there are many people out there who need the kind of assistance they provide. I just got nothing out of it.

*  They asked how many people in attendance were veterans. At least five or six people raised their hands, which kind of shocked me. All those years of advertising how the armed forces prepare you for a career after you’re back in civilian life brainwashed me into thinking that these brave men and women would be prepared for their post-military careers. Sadly, this is not the case.

Reminded me of how I wanted to offer my writing help for resumes and cover letters to veterans. Definitely want to revive that idea and find a way to provide my skills.

* In filling out the online profiles, they mentioned how important it is to mention your certifications and stuff. Examples given included HVAC and CNA. I’m sorry, but if you can’t find work in air conditioning in Texas or in nursing anywhere in the country (tremendous nursing shortage, if you didn’t  know) then I’m not sure an updated profile is going to get it done.

* The Web browser crashed several times during the presentations. Some day, the world will learn the superiority of Apple.

* In going over the resume portion of the profile, I was inspired to create an brutally honest resume along the lines of Dudley Moore’s brutally honest ad campaigns in “Funny People.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_ArDB7AJAI

Look for it in a future blog post! (It’ll be much funnier than this one.)

* Took a Boggle break. Trick I learned to get through meetings that doesn’t require doodling skills. Just make up a Boggle board (four letters by four letters) any way you want, then try to find as many words that connect across, up/down or diagonally — minimum four letters to make it harder.

* I did have an actual question, and waited until the very end to ask one of the workers. When I inquired as to whether they had any services for entrepreneurs, he referred me to the chamber of commerce and Better Business Bureau. While that did answer my question, it was more stuff I’ve already figured out for myself.


Hey, if you’re reading this and in charge of hiring a writer in the Collin County area, hit me up in the Comments section. (There — I think that’ll count as one of my “work search” entries for my log.)

The Big News

Well, folks, it happened. My Biennial Layoff.

Yep, for the second time in the past three years, I’ve been let go from my job. Each time, it truly was for economic reasons, though — so don’t go thinkin’ I’m just an unemployable hack. (OK, I’m a hack, but not unemployable.)

Back in ’08, I was part of a three-person layoff. It was actually the second set of layoffs out of a total of four within a year.

And now in ’10, I was part of a four-person layoff, which was the second or third within a year.

But shed no tears for good ol’ Harley. Because this one really drove home the new Golden Rule: “Be your own boss so nobody can fire you.”

So I will be freelancing for a time, seeking new full-time opportunities (or even contract gigs), until I am able to initiate The Plan. The Plan, in a nutshell, is my own agency.

This market (Dallas-Fort Worth) is teeming with industry. Tons of small and mid-sized businesses, crying out for a new face on the ad scene. And that’s just what I will be bringin’.

So if you’re reading this and you have a small business or your mom and dad do or your Uncle Bob does, please let me know if you/them/Bob is looking for marketing help. I’m all about integrity, creativity and results.

P.S.: Playing Mr. Mom is, by the way, awesome. Spending all this time with our twins is incredible, and one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.

Rant: Advertising Job Search (& Welcome WAS readers!)

One of the sites I visit daily is Why Advertising Sucks, a multi-writered blog that covers pop culture, has funny “Top 5”-type entries, and of course, poops on advertising.

Here’s a mini-rant, dedicated to the WAS peeps and their many other devoted readers:

(Disclaimer: I am blessed enough to be currently employed and NOT searching for a new position.)

A colleague of mine (never worked with or even met the guy in person, but he’s a fellow copywriter in the DF-Dub, funny/brilliant/creative/etc. and we “met” through online networking) who’s currently unemployed hit me up yesterday, asking if I knew anybody interested in a copywriter gig.

Now why was this guy – who’s been at several of the “major” shops in the area – not even considered for the job? Because he didn’t have enough experience with the certain industry/market in which the major new client did business.

So this writer who’s been putting words together professionally for the better part of a decade, a guy who comes highly recommended by former bosses and colleagues alike, and a highly intelligent human being, is told that he’s not qualified for a position.

This is a problem that runs rampant throughout advertising. “If you haven’t done it, you can’t do it” is the attitude of many hiring-decision-makers (HDMs, for our purposes) in our biz, which is incredibly stupid. Eminently qualified creatives with years of experience and high IQs can’t “learn” a new industry?

Here’s a quick lesson on some of the “niche” industries that these decision-makers are so picky about:

  • Pharma = Don’t say it if you can’t back it up or have Legal back it up. Have disclaimers ready for everything.
  • B2B = Give up now. Mediocrity reigns supreme. Pick up any trade magazine and you’ll see 90% crap. Just ask the client’s company president’s wife to throw something together. Either that, or use a big-ass product shot. They love that. “Ooh, show ’em our new flibbertygibbet valve!”
  • High-tech = Buzzwords, buzzwords, buzzwords. Robust. Synergistic. Leverage. Platform.

Final message to HDMs: Don’t eliminate candidates who don’t have the exact specifications you’re looking for, because frankly you’re eliminating new, fresh perspectives on the industry/market. If they can write or art direct or run an account or buy/plan media for other types of accounts, they can handle yours too.

Random Ramblin’s: Last 2008 edition

My commute last week and this week was sheer bliss. Lots of people on vacation = less drivers at rush hour = Happy Harley.

We’ve hit temperatures in the high 60s several times this December. Freakin’ awesome.

Driving around my neighborhood a couple Saturdays ago, passed by some people on the side of the road in orange vests, picking up trash. Figured they were convicts doing community service or something, but as I got closer I saw on the back of the vests: “Keep Plano Beautiful – Volunteer.” You don’t see stuff like that in a lot of other places.


PHILLIES  – Still not sure what to think of signing Raul Ibanez for three years. He’s by all accounts a great guy, so team chemistry will be good. By many accounts, he’s a lousy defender in left field. By my calendar, he’s 37. But he’s in great shape, he’s liable to hit about as well as the outgoing Pat Burrell, and there is something to be said for team chemistry. Just look at the Cowboys with all their superstars and no heart. Or the Mets in the ’90s when they overspent on Bobby Bonilla and paid big bucks for Bret Saberhagen. Yes, the Phils will have a left-handed-heavy batting lineup, but the majority of starting pitchers are righthanders anyway.

YANKEES: Certainly not one of my favorite teams, but I had to say something about them spending nearly a half-billion dollars on three players. It’s their right to do so, and it does stack them up as one of the top teams, but many things could go wrong. C.C. Sabathia is a workhorse, but he’s a big heavy dude and injuries could be a concern after pitching like 469 innings last year. (Approximately.) A.J. Burnett has a long injury history, but could be dominant if he stays healthy. Mark Teixeira will likely fit well in that lineup and bang out 40+ homers and play a great first base. The AL East will be very interesting to watch.

EAGLES: What a crazydiculous season. A tie to the woeful Bengals, Donovan McNabb pulled from a game, Andy Reid continuing to call questionable plays. And somehow, they win a bunch of games down the stretch, Tampa Bay loses to a bad Oakland team, Chicago loses to Houston, and the Birds CRUSH the gutless Cowboys to squeeze into the playoffs. And they have a good shot to beat Minnesota this weekend, and they’ve already beaten the Giants in New York. NFC Championship game, here we come?

COWBOYS: Gotta say my piece on the ‘Pokes. FOX’s Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson had this one right: the Cowboys are messed up because it starts from the top down. And owner Jerry Jones is the problem. He also serves as General Manager – even though he’d never get that job if he wasn’t an owner – and makes moves like a fantasy football owner (analogy stolen from ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd). T.O.? Sign him. Roy Williams? Don’t need him, but imagine the receiving numbers! But not when your $67 million boy Tony Romo throws stupid interceptions and the whole team looks like a bunch of quitters. I actually feel bad for Cowboys fans, because unless Jerry hires a REAL General Manager (even George Steinbrenner hired Brian Cashman), he’ll keep running the team into the ground and out of the playoffs.

76ERS: Mo Cheeks fired after going 9-14. Elton Brand out for a month. And we only get like eight 76ers games on network TV, so all that excitement I had about the team has drifted away. (Yes, “fair-weather fan” would be accurate.)

FLYERS: Apparently, they play hockey. From what I’ve gleaned in my not-caring mode, they started off sucky and then won a bunch of games, and they’re playing well.

ARENA FOOTBALL: They’re taking 2009 off and plan to get back to work in 2010. Can I do that too?

Back to ramblin’…

New Year’s Eve? Bah humbug. My REAL New Year begins on January 13, when you can send me as many birthday gifts as you like.

Oh, and of more import than anything else written above…our twins are officially both girls! So yes, Daddy’s Little Girls will be arriving this spring in theaters near you. (Well, not so much in theaters, more like subjects in my blogs that will surely embarrass them later in life.)

Peace out, yo.

Release the Kraken!

If you recognize that quote from the classic “Clash of the Titans,” then I salute you.

I’m about to unleash my own Kraken – which is to say, I’m about to send an amazing amount of unsolicited e-mails to potential employers.

I’m doing a gigamegaload of online research, and when that’s completed, I’ll be directing the aforementioned lucky souls to this blog.

Here, they can read my innermost (and self-censored to remain professional) thoughts, see my work samples and resume, and best of all, brighten their day with a laugh. (Man, I’m humble.)

So I will soon see a large spike in blog visits, and I’ll be seen by everybody who’s anybody in the DFW marketing world.

By Zeus’ beard, I welcome you all!