Knowing When to Ask for Help

calculator smashed with hammer

So apparently, according to this Slate article, math causes a “hazy, anxious, defensive procrastination” that hinders some people’s already limited understanding of numbers. Oh really! Well, I must admit that’s me to a T. There’s just one minor distinction: Whereas the author met his numerical numbing in a college topology course (whatever that is), my frustration emerged with second grade’s two-digit addition and subtraction.

Interestingly, the author’s symptoms as a struggling student paralleled those of the math students he now teaches—”muddled, half-comprehension; shyness about getting the teacher’s help; procrastination; and feeling incurably stupid.” Oh, how I can relate! I specifically remember the day my mind wandered out the window for what seemed like a minuscule of a second and when I begrudgingly pulled it back to arithmetic (that’s what we called it back then), the teacher had moved on without me. I’ve been behind ever since. Most intriguing is how, according to the author, instead of asking for help, frustrated students everywhere take on the same defensive “I hate math” that I did. They too develop a mental block against numbers.

Of course, I now know being mathematically challenged doesn’t make one stupid. I know everyone has their own area of expertise. And I know asking for help is a really good thing.

What about you? What frustrates you? Are you asking for help? If you don’t jibe much with words and design, I’m the one to ask. Numbers may not be my forte, but I’m A+ at writing, designing and making you look good!

Comparing Speeds of Internet

internet satellite dish

A couple months ago, in an extreme fit of frustration, I posted this whine about my slow internet. I even did a video, complete with irritating hum throughout, just so you could see how slow it really was.

Well, I’m happy to say we’ve made some changes and things have improved. Let’s do a little before and after comparison.

BEFORE: Local Wireless Broadband Provider

In the 15-18 years we’d been on the internet, we subscribed to a local, privately-owned internet service provider (ISP) company. We’ve always been advocates of non-corporate businesses and it was intriguing to be part of this company throughout its ground-up development.

We live in a rural area so for many of these years we were on dial-up. Remember that resonating screech of connection? If you want to relive the old days, here it is!

About eight years ago we broke down and purchased a wireless broadband antenna. To be specific, it was a Motorola Canopy Subscriber Module available through our ISP. We mounted this paddle-like antenna high on our 40-ft TV tower and from there it received transmission from an ISP tower located about five miles away. Purportedly, we were to get access speeds ranging from 2-6 Mbps (megabits per second). Megabits? Ha! I doubt we ever broke out of the gigabit barrior.

And then there were the lightening strikes, the interference from other 900 MHz users and the inopportune disconnects (are there ever opportune disconnects?). Combine these with a growing list of other frustrations and I had reached my limit. As much as I wanted to support a local company, the unreliable internet it provided was not acceptable. In fact, it was hurting my business. So for two days I went into full-time research mode, I learned more about the state of U.S. telecommunications than is comforting, and I calculated some comparisons.

Local Wireless Broadband Provider
Antenna Cost: $300, plus $199 installation (2005 rates)
Avg. Access Fee: $51.85/month, including website hosting ($622/year)

AFTER: WildBlue Satellite Dish

In 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As part of this provision, specific communications companies received subsidies, which they in turn offered to new satellite broadband users by way of free setup and discounted rates. WildBlue Internet (Exede) is one of these companies. Yes, it’s a big, nationwide company, and no, it’s not one I’d normally patronize. Sometimes though, my high-and-mighty ideals just don’t work out.

So now we have this not-so-attractive dish sitting on our roof just outside our attic window. It connects to a satellite located somewhere in the southern sky and, for the most part, it’s bringing fairly reliable internet (no, there isn’t TV with this satellite). Recently, data showed my my speed clocking in at 10 Mbps—that’s not cable internet fast, but compared to what I had before, it feels like the speed of light! More importantly, it doesn’t cut out like my previous internet and, so far, working with the company’s service reps has been a pleasant experience.

WildBlue Satellite
Dish cost: $0
Installation: $5
Avg. Access Fee: $42.15/month ($505/year)
Website hosting with Hands-On Web Hosting: $4/month ($48/year)

So there you have it. I can probably quit whining for a while. But just so you know, the whole broadband issue isn’t going away soon. Here in my Badger state “a lack of reliable and affordable broadband service in many areas in Wisconsin is hampering the ability of individuals and businesses to capitalize on new technologies,” according to this recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Justifiably and thankfully so, there are many organizations pushing for change.

What about you? What internet are you using and how’s it working for you? What are your thoughts on better access in the U.S.?


Expanding Into New Lines of Communication

close stitching of quilt by Chris Kirsch

Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether to be enthusiastic or envious. Like now…I pass along social media marketing advise to my client Chris Kirsch and she successfully runs away with it in ways that far surpass my own marketing.

I’m just kidding, of course. I’m so proud of Chris’ business savvy and I’m itching to pass it along. And because Marketing Mentor’s Ilise Benun extols the benefits of podcasting, I’ve decided an interview with Chris will spread her success and introduce a new communication tool for myself.

There’s just one problem: I sound like a dork.

In Marketing Mentor’s podcasts, Ilise always comes across as intriguingly poised. In our podcast together, Chris sounds delightful and I, well, let’s just say I’ve left myself room for lots of improvement. But that’s okay. This was so fun to do and there are so many interesting people out there to interview, I’m anxious to try it again.

So, here it is. The first of my audio podcast series, rough as it is. And let me introduce to you—Chris Kirsch!

Chris, to me, is foremost my friend and neighbor. We enjoy walking together several mornings a week, where we discuss business, faith in God and lots of other things. Hey, we’re talented, multi-tasking women—we can both walk and talk pretty doggone fast!

Chris is also one of my clients. A couple years ago I suggested she try blogging as a means of reaching out to her target audience. The tricky thing is, her audience generally is not considered to be users of social media.

No problem!

Here’s how Chris gets around that and uses blogging to bring further success to her business.

PS. The photo above is a closeup of one of Chris’ quilts. Okay, yes, I admit; I am envious.

PPS: I know so little about this podcasting. I’m looking for suggestions; so please, do share!

Better Roads To Faster Internet

good roads movement in Wisconsin

“Decades ago, our state’s leaders literally paved the way for the Wisconsin dairy industry’s success by paving nearly every road that led to a dairy farm. This was a tremendous government investment and it paid off not only for dairy farmers, but also for their communities and our state as a whole.”

Lori Compas said this in a recent opinion article. As executive director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, she was referencing Wisconsin’s Good Roads Movement, a state-funded program in the early 1900s that reassigned the responsibility of roads from the local level of government to the state level. Improved rural roads connected farmers to the rest of the world and allowed them to transport their product to market. These same improved roads went on to benefit the lives of every other Wisconsinite by way of better education, medicine, tourism and manufacturing, particularly that of the automobile.

Lori wisely used the Good Roads Movement to parallel our beloved Badger State’s need for improved rural Internet. Interestingly, small town and rural businesses are at the same crossroads dairy farmers were a hundred years ago. Non-urbanites lack affordable, high speed Internet. They’re stranded in muddied lines of slow DSL and deprived of important education, employment and business opportunities. Hey, Wisconsin isn’t the only state isolated from the information highway. This is a rural dilemma nationwide.

So what’s being done?

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), $7.2 billion was appropriated to ensure that “all people of the United States have access to broadband capability.” Part of this became subsidies to companies like Echostar (Hughes Network), Spacenet and Viasat (Wildblue Communications/Exede), who in turn offered free setup and discounted rates to new satellite broadband users.

Another portion was awarded as grant money to specified states for technological development. Originally, Wisconsin was one of these states. But whenever change, money and politics (of course) are involved, nothing is easy.

Or free.

In Wisconsin’s case, a clash surfaced when the federal grant regulations got in the way of big corporate contracts. To the dismay of many, the state’s government chose to return the funding.

All politics aside, poor Internet is frustrating at least, debilitating at most. Today, self-employment and small businesses are the fastest growing sectors of our economy. They’re an obvious answer to the unemployment in many rural areas. Yet, reliable Internet is an absolute must for a majority of these jobs.

Here’s the thing—most people living in cities aren’t aware of this not-so-remote problem. To help with that, I made this little (and highly unprofessional) video of a typical workday with my Internet.

(I actually do have broadband. It’s a fixed wireless broadband, but it’s…well, check out the video below and you’ll see what I mean.)


Superstorm Sandy and the Importance of Giving

Philadelphia, night before the Hurricane Sandy

My husband and I were in Philadelphia over the weekend just before the surge of Hurricane Sandy. To say it was interesting is an understatement. In mayhem-filled grocery stores, people stood in checkout lines that ran the length of every aisle. In coffee shops, they contemplated the water resiliency of their apartments and whether their subway stops would stay open.

Meanwhile, my husband and I hunkered down at the historic Conwell Inn, located at Temple University (I just love that inn). At midnight of the night before the storm, we walked around campus and there was a fascinating calm/eerie/excitement in the air (the students were ecstatic because classes had already been cancelled:-). We debated whether to stay our full reservation, but in the end left the next day before things became too chaotic.

That’s the extent of our hurricane adventure—obviously nothing too dramatic. It did give us cause for reflection though.

Whenever my husband and I visit large urban areas, we’re reminded how naive we are of life outside our rural Midwestern simplicity. Most big city folks don’t drive (many, like our son, don’t even own a car). They live in smaller spaces that don’t allow for much food storage. And there are people everywhere. When something catastrophic like a superstorm hits, the problems they face are much different than our own.

Hurricane Sandy reminds us of the importance of giving. Isn’t it awesome how Americans come together and help each other?

With that in mind, I want to put out word to those needing help with their visual communications. Each year Adunate does two pro-bono projects—one large and one small. If your organization needs creative assistance in 2013, click here for an application. And then, click here to guarantee your project’s success!