A Strong Man

As I muse back on my college career, I think about all the fun I had banging around weights and flipping tracker tires in the driveway of a rural home in mid-Missouri.
Justin Wheeler, who was then about as old as I am now, in his mid-20s, had just introduced me to Strongman. It’s a sport defined lifting seemingly immovable objects: metal logs, concrete spheres and thick axles that take farmer’s hands to grip, among other implements.
Every Sunday during my last semester at the University of Missouri, we’d throw kegs high into the air, and rip more than 200 pounds from the ground, propelling the weight overhead.
He lives in Kansas City, now. His 31st birthday is today.
And when I learned I would be traveling to the metro that meets at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers for business, I thought we could relive some of that fun.
I called his wife last week, and surprised him at the airport Saturday.
For the past two days, we remade some of that weight room rough housing.
Bending bars, pressing metal logs late into the night in front of his Liberty, Mo., home and dead-lifting grip breaking weight that has ripped calluses off my hands.
The most important lessons I ever learned in college, I learned from Justin Wheeler.
He taught me a lot about patience, kindness, honesty, friendship and most importantly how to really have a good time.
Happy Birthday, Justin.
And an unimaginably huge thank you for letting me hang out with your husband, Katie Jo.
You are two of my favorite people.



Source: Instagram

I took my annual — well, only my second — trip to Boston to cover the CEB TowerGroup conference.

Along the way I met a fulltime blogger; A lifelong copy editor; An (especially attractive) event planner for a New Haven, Conn. museum; An elderly attorney who was returning from visiting his son in Chicago; And a father-and-son, who were traveling to Philadelphia to meet up with family and then head back to Rhode Island.

Somewhere in between Boston and New York Penn on the four-and-a-half hour Amtrak ride, each taught me something. Mostly that folks are still friendly, even on the seemingly aggressive East Coast.

While I was in New England, however, I got to stop by the Boston Globe newsroom and visit an old friend, Andy Boyle.

I offered to pose in the picture above. The “Gangasta Rap” t-shirt was sitting on Boyle’s desk.

On a different note, check out my stories from the three-day conference.

I interviewed big bank executives, spoke with technology vendors and made an attempt at understanding the foibles of digital wallets.

Balance Sheet Pressures, Digital Wallet Competitors, Drive Banks to Rethink Retail Channels
May 29, 2012 What banks are doing today for their retail customers isn’t working, attendees at last week’s TowerGroup conference…

In Lieu of Branches, Bespoke Bankers
May 31, 2012 Admirals Bank has a rather unusual retail strategy — replacing branches with iPad-toting, Mercedes-driving specialized…

A Model for Banks: Citi’s Broad Payments Vision
May 24, 2012 Paul Galant, Citi’s head of enterprise payments, shares the company’s direction on the mobile wallet and B2B payments.

Banks Risk Becoming ‘Dumb Pipes’ Unless They Partner on Payments
May 23, 2012 A TowerGroup analyst has strong words for banks reluctant to get involved in mobile payment initiatives.

In the Branch, Tablets Mean Money
May 23, 2012 New products are making paperless account openings and loans possible via tablets.

Banks Can’t Handle the Mobile Wallet, TowerGroup Analyst Says
May 23, 2012 Most banks don’t have the IT infrastructure to support the flood of payments data that will come with mobile payments…

This Week’s TowerGroup Conference Theme: How to Stay Relevant
May 22, 2012 Senior bank executives and TowerGroup analysts, as well as our own Sean Sposito, are headed to Boston to hash out ideas for…

Madge Meyer, chief innovation officer at State Street, gave some advice at the TowerGroup conference this week. American Banker technology reporter Sean Sposito, who was in Boston covering the meeting, found her comments interesting and entertaining.

Docs on Docs on Docs

Developers and programmers are creating tools that use Google Docs, not databases such as MySQL or Postgresql, to power visualization.

Inspired by the open source culture of the internet, code writing reporters and hackers for hire are using easy to understand javascript to fuel simple applications with Excel-like spreadsheets.

These journalists are fueled by the opportunity to bring visualizations to newsrooms that are devoid of news app developers.

The latest example is Tabletop — created by Balance Media, which has already produced news apps for WNYC, The New York Times and Propublica, among others.

Tabletop was originally built to work with ProPublica’s TimelineSetter, a JS+Ruby library that creates timelines. You need some specifically-formatted JSON which is created by a Ruby script from a CSV, which means your workflow is usually spreadsheet -> CSV -> Ruby -> JSON -> JS.

With Tabletop, though, you get to hook right into a Google Spreadsheet for all of your info! You just need to massage your data a little bit, thanks to Google’s API messing with column names and you needing a timestamp.”

I am by no means a programmer. But show me an example that I can open up in a text editor and upload to a website using FileZilla, even I can figure that out.

Shout Out: A big thanks to Andy Boyle of The Boston Globe for pointing me in the direction of this tool via Twitter. I’ll be sure to use it. 

Keep Kristin Hogan’s Memory Alive

Update: As of  4:44 pm on Wednesday May 2, the donation reached its goal. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed.   

When a friend dies, the void they leave behind fills you with regrets.

You forgot to say ‘I love you.’ You did not reach out as often as you should have. You could never express the way you felt.

Kristin Hogan died about a year ago within a dozen blocks of where I’m sitting.

She worked in the same city as I do. And, before a mutual friend told me, I had not thought about her in months.

We lived together in college.

She was an incredibly passionate woman. She was a chef at an upscale place, I’m told, the kind that I could never afford. Her love of satisfying others was insatiable.

Today, however, she has no memorial.

Several people are working to fix that by aiding her friends and family in raising funds so that a bench can be placed in her name at Peace Park in Columbia, Mo, her university’s hometown.

Please consider donating