Sunday, December 26, 2010 -- I can't believe I didn't know about this before

I've been a member of frequent flyer clubs since they first appeared in the mid-1980s. In those early days, it was easy to keep track of your miles. You just signed up for all of the programs and waited for the statements to come, telling you how close you were to your next free trip.

I don't travel as frequently as I did back then, yet keeping track of all those mileage programs has gotten exponentially harder. These days, the programs seem to change every couple of years, the benefits are much more complicated, and if you don't stay active in a program, they take away all of your hard-earned miles. To make matters worse, I now have a family of four, which means I have to keep track of four times as many memberships -- more then 50, to be specific. It wasn't supposed to be this complicated!

In recent years I've dreamed of finding a single-login consolidator where I could keep track of all of the miles from all of my family's programs. When I accidentally forfeited over 50,000 miles recently because I lost track of the expiration dates, I knew I had to act.

Turns out I didn't have to look very far.

is such a service, and best of all, it's free, so it's easy to try. Honestly, it's exactly what I dreamed of. You enter your frequent flyer numbers and passwords for every account you have -- airlines, hotels, rental cars, even cash back programs and gift cards. From that point forward, a single login to gets you instant access to every program in a single clean user interface, along with balances and expiration dates.

It gets better. I don't think my dream service could have better-envisioned the way AwardWallet handles multiple accounts. Every member of my family has a login, but they are all connected to my account as well, so I can quickly view the balance, status and expiration dates of all my family's mileage programs.

It gets better. Because AwardWallet logs in and automatically checks my mileage accounts, it also can keep track of my travel plans, and sends timely reminders for online check-ins, plus confirmations after my travel is completed.

Almost every feature is free. Tracking expiration dates for more than 3 programs requires signing up for the "Plus" service, but the price is right -- AwardWallet lets you pay what you think it's worth. You can unlock all the features for as little as a dollar.

I can't recommend AwardWallet enough, and hope that people will sign up for the "Plus" service to help support its continued operation. For me, it's a dream come true.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Nationals Presidents Race, I Salute You with a big Let Teddy Win!

Presidents Race, you say? Well, if you haven't been to a Washington Nationals game since July, 2006, then you'll have no idea what I'm talking about, so all you non baseball loving folks can skip this post.

(Skip to what I have no idea, because there isn't exactly a torrent of posts on my blog. This is the first post in over 7 months. I have no readers, nor do I really want them. Oh well, I digress.)

The Presidents Race takes place at Washington Nationals home games, in the middle of the 4th inning. Nationals staffers dressed as Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson enter from behind the right field bleachers and race towards home plate, where a temporary finish line is held up by somebody in a Gecko costume (because the Presidents Race is now sponsored by Geico, the insurance company). My son, who was 11 years old and at the game with me when the Washington Nationals introduced the live Presidents Race in July 2006, absolutely loved it.

I took this photo of the racing presidents from above the 3rd base dugout at RFK Stadium, as the presidents started their dash to the finish line.
A cute thing for the kids, but nothing too too original, right? Sure, a presidents race could be uniquely associated with Washington, but Milwaukee has had the racing sausages forever, closer to home Baltimore has the ketchup & mustard race, and minor league baseball teams have been doing this sort of thing for decades. That was my initial reaction.
Then, soon after the Presidents Race had been introduced, I met a Nationals employee and asked him the question that had been burning in my son's head. "Do you decide in advance who's going to win?, I asked." His answer was surprising and illuminating. "We don't decide in advance," he said. "The only rule is that Teddy can't win."
I had to admit I hadn't remembered a Teddy victory to that point. My first reaction was that this was hilarious. A novelty. I have since realized that it was an utterly brilliant marketing decision.

"We don't decide in advance," he said.
"The only rule is that Teddy can't win."

For quite some time, the notion that Teddy never wins was like a little inside joke for me and my son. At Nationals games, we'd share this little tidbit with fans seated near us during the presidents race, always to their surprise, and as if it were secret inside information.
By the end of the 2006 season, Nationals season ticket holders had figured it out, and the presidents race began to be occassionally greeted by a chear of "Teddy! Teddy!" scattered throughout RFK Stadium.
For 2007, in it's first full season under ownership of the Lerner family, the Washington Nationals marketing organization started to really leverage what they had created. On opening day, the presidents race started without Teddy Roosevelt, but he entered late to pass the field via a zip line from atop the stadium roof. His dramatic entrance led to a disqualification, but set the stage for the season that was to come. With each presidents race, Teddy Roosevelt found a more and more dramatic way to lose, yet the streak continued. With the Nationals baseball team off to a horrific 9-23 start by mid-May, the crowds and the media both adopted Teddy Roosevelt as their hero.
The Teddy fever peaked late in the season on September 1, which was Teddy Roosevelt bobblehead night. Fans and reporters speculated that this would be the big night that Teddy Roosevelt won the presidents race. After all, fake secret service agents had previously been on hand to help George, Abe, and Thomas win the presidents race on each of their bobblehead nights. The cheers for Teddy were louder than any noise made by the fans at any point in the game (including the booing when Barry Bonds stepped to the plate). Alas, it was not to be. Teddy fell off the throne he'd been carried in on, and lost the race to George Washington in a sprint to the finish.
Let Teddy Win in 2008!

Call me crazy, but at a certain point in the 2007 Nationals season I decided I was going to adopt Teddy Roosevelt as a personal cause. Not to take anything away from the baseball team (because I love the Nationals), but even the most inspired play by a young but talent-starved team with a losing record and no history is going to have limited mass appeal. While Stan Kasten, Jim Bowden, and Manny Acta are busy trying to assemble the 2011 World Series champions, Teddy Roosevelt and the endless quest to win the presidents race are the best story in town, and the first real opportunity we have as a fan base to establish our own unique tradition. Even if the Nats get off to a rocky start again in 2008, Teddy can still help pack 'em into the new ballpark.

So, in keeping with the great history of fan-generated major league baseball traditions, I registered, to help build support by Nationals fans for Teddy Roosevelt in his quest to win the presidents race. For the time being, I have set up a shop at CafePress where you can order Let Teddy Win t-shirts and I am pointing the domain name there.
I knew I was onto something when I registered the trademark, designed the first t-shirt, and within days got a notification that an order had been placed. I don't know how they found it, but it confirmed for me that the Teddy fans are out there.

CafePress is great for shirts and other goodies, and I will definitely keep it alive, but I'd like to add more sections to I have a lot of ideas and sketches of what can go on the site, but not being a programmer, I don't have a lot of resources to devote to it yet.
I could definitely see polls, standings, and discussions, plus some fun stuff for the presidents race campaign 2008, but am not sure I'm up for the task of moderation. If you have ideas, send them to

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Checking out PowerReviews

I am evaluating whether to use PowerReviews to power the new user-generated reviews on our web site. As part of that process, I submitted a review at one of their current clients,, which uses a very robust PowerReviews implementation, including the ability to share photos, which I tried (ideal for reviewing a camera lens -- or a camera phone...). I was really impressed by the "blog this review" option that appeared on the review confirmation page. It worked flawlessly (I simply had to type in my blog address and password), and automatically added a link to to my blog -- perfect for SEO.

My review of Nikon 18mm - 200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Wide Angle Telephoto Zoom-Nikkor Lens with 5 Year U.S.A. Warranty

Originally submitted at Adorama

Nikon 18mm - 200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Wide Angle Telephoto Zoom-Nikkor Lens with 5 Year U.S.A. Warranty

The single best super-range zoom lens

5 out of 5

Pros: Vibration Reduction, Sharp for a super-zoom, Compact, Huge 18-200mm zoom range, All-purpose

Cons: Can slip if pointed down

Best Uses: Where pro glass is banned, Fun, Travel

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

The huge 18-200mm range on this lens is equivalent to 28-300mm in a 35mm format. Zoom lenses with such huge ranges have been around for a long time, and are very popular as an all-purpose lens, but they have inherent drawbacks.

Specifically, these "super zooms" aren't going to be as sharp or as fast as professional lenses or even as fast as cheaper fixed lenses. By "fast", I mean the maximum aperature is only f/3.5 when shooting at 18mm and only f/5.6 when the lens is zoomed out. Compare this to a fixed $100 portrait lens which shoots at f/1.8, and you'll see the drawbacks pretty quickly. The fixed lens can shoot in lower light without a flash, or can capture action shots at much faster shutter speeds.

Nikon has attempted to change the rules with this lens by adding "VR" (vibration reduction) technology. It works like the steady shot setting on a camcorder, allowing you to shoot at a slower shutter speed and still get crisp shots. This makes the lense twice as expensive as other "super zooms".

Is it worth it? In my opinion, absolutely YES. If you are a professional photographer, you would never be fooled into thinking that this can replace all your prime lenses. But if you are a serious amateur and don't want to carry a bag of lenses around with you on vacation, then this little wonder will handle almost any situation. It is definitely sharper than the "super zooms" made by Tamron and others, and that's before you add in the VR technology.

One bonus I love about it is how compact it is. Most sports venues forbid the use of "professional" photo equipment, but I get this lens through security every time, and with the VR technology, get some pretty good action shots.

Others have mentioned that the lens slips when pointed down. I have found that this is true, and it's disappointing; however it does not slip from the fully-closed 18mm position. It only slips if it's already partially zoomed out.

If a super-zoom makes sense for your needs, and you can afford it, then I highly recommend this lens.

Example of a 200mm shot with this lens


Tags: Made with Product

Example of an 18mm shot with this lens


Tags: Made with Product


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Why create a blog in the first place?

Why create a blog? Good question, because with some exceptions I generally hate blogs and believe that as a category they are overhyped and over-represented in search. Yet my business is the internet, and I have to understand what's going on out there. Blogs are long past qualifying as "what's going on."

So today I read this article about managing your own brand:

Of course, if you've ever looked me up or visited my family web site at, you'd know that I've been managing the ableman "brand" for a long time. I just thought "what else can I do?" How else can I ensure dominant positioning of the brand? So I signed up here. At least nobody else will take my name.

Will I actually start to post regularly? I doubt it.

Will I use this as a place to learn and play with seo? Possibly.

More to follow ...maybe