Angelica and I went out to The Mission last night for the Dia de los Muertos celebration. We didn’t make it last year, but compared to 2009 it seemed like the procession was smaller, but there were still about a bajillion people out in various states of costume and makeup – some of it very impressive and well-done.

Day of the Dead isn’t just about goth kids having an excuse to wear makeup (like they need one) or the Burning Man crowd building stuff for the procession – although there’s usually plenty of both. It’s a very significant cultural/spiritual event with real meaning for the organizers and participants. (I know, way to go Captain Understatement!) The altars in the park were amazing as always and aside from the Steve Jobs and Dio altars, they all appeared to be very personal and emotional affairs. One woman had built an altar for her husband (I think) and was there telling folks about how awesome he was in an almost joyful way – very touching and cool.

I’m not very good at taking photos at night, but here are a few that turned out. Maybe my resolution for 2012 should be learn to take photos for realsies.

I decided to try taking videos with my point ‘n’ shoot camera*, and they actually turned out kinda cool so I posted them on the You Tubes. Here’s one of huge glowing jellyfish dancing down the street.

 

And one of some super cool dancing and drumming. The jellyfish show up in this one too – they’re hard to miss.

 

*In case you’re wondering, my camera is a Panasonic Lumix - the discontinued DMC-FS15. I’ve been super happy with it – it was cheap, takes good photos in my spite of my total lack of technique (almost all the photos here were taken with it, including the page backgrounds) and the battery lasts forever.

Headed out to my favorite San Francisco motorbike event today – the Dirtbag Challenge. If you’re not familiar, basically it’s a loosely “organized” annual contest where folks build crazy-ridiculous bikes for less than $1000 (including the cost of the bike) in thirty days or less. Good clean American fun, in a “Wow, I can’t believe the cops still haven’t shown up” kind of way.

The entries are always very interesting, and the bonus is all the cool bikes people ride to the event. Pretty sure that I lost the last remaining bits of hearing I had during a particular smokey burnout session. Never mind the chunks of burned-up tires in my lungs.

Quote of the day that pretty much sums up the event : while waiting for the bikes to come in from the required ride – the bikes have to be rideable – we overheard two dudes talking. “Oh, maybe this is them coming in now… no, wait – those don’t sound sketchy enough.” Someone else pointed out that the headlights seemed too bright, to which I responded “That, and they have headlights.” Seriously, some of these bikes are amazing pieces of work and some of them are just plain dangerous.

Anyways… super fun as always. Check out the pics – maybe by next year I’ll learn how to use my camera. Or maybe I’ll build a bike instead.

Headed out yesterday morning on my VFR800 to scrub in my new tires and get my new front suspension dialed in. Rode north out of SF and ended up riding the hills around Dillon Beach / Tomales Bay, then came back down Highway 1 to Stinson Beach and headed back to the Golden Gate via Panoramic Highway. There were a lot of folks out for the holiday weekend, but in spite of the high number of SUV drivers unable to stay on their side of the double yellow in the twisties, I managed to survive and even had a great time.

After arriving back home, I managed to convince Angelica we should ride down the coast somewhere for dinner. So we headed down Highway 1 through Pacifica to a little seafood joint called Ketch Joanne just north of Half Moon Bay. We chowed down on cioppino and calamari steaks before riding back to San Francisco. Most of the Sunday drivers had disappeared by this time, and the ride back was much more fun.

Total ride time about six hours – a good day. I’m thinking of riding the Cal24 in the next year or two, so I’m trying to get in more long days. Honestly, given the insanely long moto-commutes I’ve done in the past, 6 hours doesn’t feel like all that much.

I’m happy to report that my new Bridgestone BT023s are awesome. Smooth, super easy to lean into turns and very predictable in the twisties. Even better – I’ve heard of guys getting 12,000 miles or more out of them – awesome! And the RaceTech setup Dave over at O’Hanlon set me up with is great – it’s like a new bike!

Here are a few pics from the day’s riding:

So I’m out for a walk with my special ladyfriend this evening, and as we’re heading up Vermont into Potrero Hill we come across this Honda XR650L hanging from a tree.

I have to admire this person’s resourcefulness – I don’t have a good place to work on my bike either, but I also don’t have a tree. I do have to wonder, though – what will the neighbors say!?!?

It’s well known that I’m a big fan of stripped-down, old school rock ‘n’ roll. So when I heard Wanda Jackson was coming to the Great American Music Hall here in SF, I bought tickets immediately.

The show was last night. Wow. Seriously – wow. What an incredible show. Wanda kicked ass. Her voice was on. Red Meat did a great job of backing her up, too.

The awesomeness of this show is certainly a commentary on the simmering cauldron of weaksauce that is modern “rock ‘n’ roll” but that could de-emphasize how much she rocked. Let me say it again – Wanda Jackson rocks. I’ve seen a LOT of shows, and two things stood out for me:

  1. Wanda is in her mid-seventies now, and I believed her rockin’. She was totally into it – the real deal.
  2. The audience loves Wanda. The constant screaming and cheering reminded me of the old tapes of crowds going nuts for rock stars when rock ‘n’ roll was still new.

It turns out I’m not immune to a bit of nostalgia, either. I almost teared up when she talked about how Elvis inspired and encouraged her (a young country-western singer at the time) to try this new kind of music that they didn’t even have a name for yet.

So here are some crappy iPhone pictures from the show. I wish they were better, and I hope they convey at least a little of the awesomeness of Wanda. Angelica and I had a hell of a time.

My first street bike - 1969 Honda CL350 Scrambler

Gateway Drug: '69 CL350 Scrambler

I’m a motorbike addict, a junkie too far gone to even bother with denial. My morning coffee and lunchtime routines includes a lot of “researching” of the Craigslist motorcycles section and the BARF Classifieds.

Today I came upon a 1969 Honda CL350 Scrambler for sale down in Santa Cruz. This was my first street bike! No, I didn’t start riding in 1969 – I wasn’t even born then, contrary to what the gray in my beard may have you thinking. I bought my CL from a friend of my dad in 1988 for $100. That’s right, one hundred American dollars. It was clean, too – at least as clean as this one, and it ran. I tore around the backroads without a license (wasn’t old enough) or a helmet (I know, very bad!). A year or two later, I got a license, a helmet, and a 1981 Yamaha XT250.

DUDE. I want this bike. There’s no sense to it, none at all. Yeah, early Hondas CBs and CLs are cool bikes – I’ve had several, and loved them all – but there’s no real good reason to buy this bike other than nostalgia. I’d been riding on the dirt for many years, but this is the same exact bike that introduced me to the evil powers of street bikes.

It’s too small for me, and I’m too accustomed to *ahem* real horsepower, the brakes will be about as good as dragging my feet, Flintstone-style, it’ll be impossible to find parts… the list goes on. But I still want it.

So the rationalizing starts… I could get it, hang on to it, eventually restore it, ride it around the neighborhood now and then. Angelica could ride it. Ooh, there we go! And it does look reasonably unmolested, even has the original paint. Sure, the frame has been repainted, but it’s probably ok. The side covers are missing, but that’s nothing that hours upon hours of combing eBay and motorcycle wrecking yards can’t solve. I can probably talk the guy down on the price, maybe get him down to around two grand… hey, that’s only 20 times what I paid for my first one!

And it just so happens we’re going to be down in Santa Cruz this Saturday.

Does this mean they're sending me an iPad? As I’ve mentioned before, I subscribe to a lot of emails. Marketing research and all that. Wading through my “lists” inbox tonight, I noticed that the Costco has a Kensington iPad case with a built-in battery. Now, I don’t even have an iPad, but Angelica does, and I reckon with its already amazing battery life and the extra five hours this thing claims to provide, the iPad oughtta last us through the next nuclear winter, at least. And, it’s got a freakin’ kickstand, which according to that annoying animated billboard on the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge is a REALLY BIG DEAL.

So I click through, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? A free iPad from Costco!

Ok, it doesn’t actually say I get a free iPad, but it does say “iPod not included,” which I’m assuming is intended to clarify (for the non Tech Crunch readers) that you get an iPad, not an iPod.

AWESOME. Placing my order now.

Maybe it’s just daylight savings time that has me a bit grumpy this morning. I prefer to wake up when it’s still dark, or at least gray.

Or maybe I’m grumpy because my iPhone – an allegedly smart phone – failed me this morning.

I knew, or at least suspected, that it was going to happen. Both Angelica and I have iPhones, and reset our alarms last night, but just in case, I set the regular old alarm clock too. This morning, I was awakened by the beeping of that dinosaur, not either of our iPhones.

Look, I get that software is extremely complex. Mistakes are made, and missed in QA. Fine. I’m not a developer, so I’m not even going to bother theorizing about the nuts and bolts of why my alarm clock didn’t go off today. (Even though I’d have thought there’d be some best practices in place by now for automatic handling of alarm clocks and Daylight Savings Time. It’s not like this is bleeding edge stuff.)

Apple has been aware of the issue for at least a month, and even created a support article about it. But in typical Apple fashion, they were pretty quiet about it. In fact, if I hadn’t heard about it from Angelica, I wouldn’t have known about it at all. I’m a busy guy – I don’t pay attention to all the iPhone/Apple chatter. I shouldn’t have to – this thing is supposed to just work, right? Judging by the noise on Twitter this morning, I’m not the only one who didn’t notice until too late.

Just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I connected my iPhone to my MacBook Pro and fired up iTunes. Nope – no software update, no warning, no messaging at all. I did have to agree to YET ANOTHER iTunes Store Terms and Conditions update – maybe there’s a new clause that explains that the alarm clock doesn’t actually work.

This is a missed opportunity. Apple should have sent an email campaign with the workaround instructions, rather than relying on the blogosphere and the media, maybe even done some PPC marketing on keyword phrases like “iPhone alarm clock fix” with the support article as the landing page.

Hell, even AT&T could have done it, by email or text message. It’s not like they don’t need every bit of goodwill they can get from iPhone users.

Instead, we get a support article that doesn’t even make the iPhone Hot News page. Instead, we get people waking up late for work. Instead, we get people pissed off at Apple and maybe looking at one of those slick new Android phones instead of following the default next-gen iPhone upgrade path.

Listen up Apple. I love your products. I’ve sent a lot of cash your way. But dumb errors like this (and even dumber handling of them) makes me want to drink someone else’s Koolaid.

Photo of shadow of riders on motorcycle.Angelica and I went for a ride today – a leisurely, almost touristy, two-up, chatting in the headsets kind of Saturday afternoon ride. We headed out of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate into the Marin Headlands and on. It was a positively magnificent day for motorbiking.

Angelica snapped this photo from the back of the bike near the end of the day. Super cool.

I’m a big fan of Hello Lucky. They make awesome letterpress cards – nice heavy paper and cool designs, especially the cards with monkeys on them. I’ve purchased lots of cards from local shops when I’m short on time, but I mostly I order direct from HelloLucky.com. Angelica has also ordered directly from their site.

Last night, we found two envelopes from Hello Lucky in our mail – one for me, one for Angelica. Each envelope contained a “Happy Halloween From Hello Lucky” postcard and a blank Halloween card with envelope.

The postcard has a playful poem that basically says “Hey, it’s Halloween now, but soon it’ll be Christmas, so send this free card to someone now and make sure to plan ahead so you can send awesome cards for the holidays. Oh, and by the way, here’s a coupon code.” There are two codes: one for 3 free samples of holiday cards, and another for 15% off site-wide. The coupon codes have a pretty tight expiration date, which is good. This should help drive home the point of “It’s go time. Order your cards now.”

This is very interesting to me. I’m a jaded online marketer, so of course I immediately started dissecting their strategy. But I’ll admit I was totally jazzed to get a Halloween card from Hello Lucky, even if Angelica did get the cooler card.

I like to imagine that companies that are truly driven by passion for making awesome stuff and creating delightful experiences come by these kinds of marketing ideas in a “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to just send some cards to our customers?” kind of way, with the number-crunching and ROI scenarios coming afterwards. Look, I know that this is essentially a free sample mailer. Not exactly a groundbreaking concept, but kickass in execution. I seriously doubt the average Hello Lucky customer who receives one of these is going to say, “Well, duh, they’re just sending me a free card so I’ll but more stuff from them.” They’re going to say, “AWESOME!”

  1. The sample is an excellent reminder of how great the Hello Lucky cards are. I get points for sending someone an awesome card, and Hello Lucky gets their cards in front of another potentially new customer.
  2. The timing is perfect – close enough to Christmas that it makes sense to buy holiday cards, but not so close that anyone will worry about whether the cards will arrive in time to mail out in time for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus.
  3. In spite of having not one, but two coupon codes, the whole thing feels more like I just got something from a friend, not some smarmy hard-sell marketing materials. Plus, I get the option of using coupon code A to get more free stuff, or coupon B to get 15% off. Beautiful, and a nice test to see what folks will respond to.

Hello Lucky faces significant challenges in getting folks to order directly from them online. I don’t have any data on this, but I’d bet I’m not the only person who picks up cards on the way to the event the card is celebrating. It’s easy to grab a crappy, last minute greeting card at the grocery store if I’m not planning ahead. Mailing cards in a timely fashion? Very difficult for me.

This campaign short-circuits those issues, with a physical reminder of the very high quality of Hello Lucky’s cards and a sensible nudge to get a jump on the holiday season. I’d bet lots of folks will be thankful not only for the coupon, but for the gentle reminder as well. Nice work.

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician